UC Berkeley Tourism Studies Working Group - news_detail  

2022-2023 Colloquium Series

The Tourism Studies Working Group is pleased to present

Connecting Elsewhere, Otherwise:
Thoughts on Why We (Still) Travel in a Hyper-Connected Age

Naomi Leite
Reader (Associate Professor), Anthropology and Sociology
SOAS, University of London

Friday, May 5, 4PM-6PM PST

Hybrid Presentation:
Gifford Room, 221 Anthropology and Art Practice Bldg.
University of California, Berkeley

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About the Presentation:
The Covid years of working, learning, shopping, and socializing online taught middle-class professionals around the world that we could remain connected and engaged in others' lives through the internet. Meanwhile, over the past decade advances in digital technologies have made it possible to wander through a museum or landscape on the other side of the world, in some cases to an immersive extent, without ever leaving one's home. And yet once Covid restrictions eased, throughout the “Global North” people resumed long-haul leisure travel: according to the UNWTO, by late 2021 demand for international flights had outstripped 2019 levels. Why? This talk presents some reflections on why we (still) travel, focusing on the unique and diverse forms of engagement and connection enabled by physical presence. In this, I draw on two decades of research, undertaken in four countries and online, on ways people in different cultural and social milieus seek and refine senses of self, belonging, and community—in international heritage/roots tourism, in locals' desire for interaction and even lasting relationships with foreign tourists, in travel to engage more intensely with one’s own longstanding values and preferred leisure activities, and, in my current research, in intentional communities designed to provide an everyday sense of belonging and community at home, as an antidote to social isolation. While we may be living in a hyper-connected age, in recent years government agencies in the UK, Japan, and the US, among other countries, have announced initiatives to address what they call an “epidemic of loneliness,” with detrimental effects to both psychological and physical health. In drawing conceptual links between leisure travel and intentional communities, viewed against the backdrop of diminished sociality in post-industrial settings, I call for increased attention to the diverse collective solutions devised to address that most basic problem of the individual: the need for connection, interdependence, and belonging.

Speaker Bio:
Naomi Leite received her MA and PhD in Anthropology at UC Berkeley, where she co-founded the Tourism Studies Working Group in 2003. She is presently Reader (Associate Professor) in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at SOAS, University of London. A cultural and psychological anthropologist, Leite’s work focuses on identity, belonging, exclusion, and isolation across domains and scales of sociality. She is author of Unorthodox Kin: Portuguese Marranos and the Global Search for Belonging (UC Press, 2017), winner of the 2018 Stirling Prize in Psychological Anthropology, the 2018 Graburn Award in Anthropology of Tourism, 2017 National Jewish Book Award Finalist, and honorable mention for the 2017 Douglas Prize for the Anthropology of Europe. Her second book, The Ethnography of Tourism (co-edited with Quetzil Castaneda and Kathleen Adams, Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), was awarded the 2019 Bruner Prize by the Anthropology of Tourism Interest Group of the AAA.

TSWG Co-Founders (L to R: Stephanie Hom, Naomi Leite, Charlie Carroll)

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