Intellectual Tools for Studying Travel

The essay by T. Jamal and K. Hollinshead, "Tourism and the Forbidden Zone: The Underserved Power of Qualitative Inquiry", seems to someone from outside of the area to have very little to do with tourism at all. And yet, I would argue, it raises a central question in the study of tourism, or travel in general: What tools are available to study travel, and what are the implications of using these tools?

To answer this, we will have to think about what it is we plan to analyze, and what the range of tools available to us might be. We have already begun the first task by differentiating modes of travel and thinking about the experience of travel. Here are some common critical tools to use (this list is not exhaustive):

Interpretive or Qualitative Approaches to Research

  1. Comparative Interpretation: Comparing texts to other texts, by the same person who produced the texts, by others at the same time, by others at other times. Comparison generally needs to have a point, rather than just being a list of similarities and differences.
  2. Archetypal Interpretation: Looking for archetypal (impersonal, mythical, universal) elements in a text or experience.
  3. Psychoanalytic Interpretation: Looking for elements of sublimated desire, coping with reality, & other Freudian themes.
  4. Feminist Interpretation: Considering the portrayal of women, or the implications from a woman's perspective, or the contribution to patriarchy or the resistance to it.
  5. Formalist Interpretation: Looking for formal elements, that is, the elements that are not about content or subject, but about technique or treatment.
  6. Semiotic Interpretation: Not what the text means, but how it means. An examination of the meaning-bearing signs.
  7. Phenomenological Interpretation: Analyzing the (universal) experience itself, rather than the object of that experience.
  8. Hermeneutic Interpretation: Allowing the encounter with the "other" (whether that is a person, a text, or a historical event) to question the questioner, so that one's question becomes more appropriate and incisive.
  9. Marxist Interpretation: Considering the implications for class. Considering the production of the text, the social reality out of which it came. Considering the propogation of the text.
  10. Interpretation based on Stylistic Influences: Considering the stylistic forebears, the text-producers who were the inspiration for the present text or image.
  11. Biographical Interpretation: Answering the question, "why does the text-producer make texts like this?" Connecting the person's life with the texts or images.
  12. Intentionalist Interpretation: Determining what the producer of the text intended.
  13. Interpretations based on technique: What difference does the medium make? What difference does the method of production make?

(adapted from Terry Barrett, Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images. Mayfield, 1990)