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Routes, roots, and rumours: Tracing migration and tourism imaginaries

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Making inroads into tourism vs. immigration

Both tourism and immigration involve movement of people and provoke strong human responses. Likewise, both phenomena also have an unusual dynamic between the northern and southern hemispheres that is well worth studying.

Climate Change and Environment

Immigration of people from troubled countries has tended to be from the south to the north, while much tourism has tended to be from the north to the south. This interesting paradox and society's perceptions are behind Migratourima, an EU-funded anthropological study on 'Routes, roots, and rumours: tracing migration and tourism imaginaries'. Imaginaries can be described as representational systems that mediate reality and form identities. They are important in building perceptions about other peoples and nations, although they are not necessarily accurate. The study is examining how tourism and immigration with respect to Africa, Asia and Latin America are interlinked, what this tells us about multiculturalism, and how we see one another. The main hypothesis is that tourists from the north are perceive the south in ways that seem disconnected from the present and more connected to an imagined past. With this in mind, the study is looking at how people in Belgium imagine tourism in Chile, Indonesia and Tanzania, and how Belgians see migration from these countries. The research will employ a diverse approach, involving observation, interviews, archived research, and material from secondary sources (TV, advertising, press, cinema, photography, and exhibitions). The ethnographic perspective will provide a close analysis of the cultural practices and social relations that produce or reproduce globally circulating imaginaries of mobility, and the implications of this for citizens. The project is adding to existing research in two ways. First, imaginary ideas are put into practice, and the ethnographic method described above assesses how such activities, subjects, and social relations materialise and are enacted and encouraged. Second, the research analyses how widespread imaginaries and personal imagination about mobility are interconnected but contradict each other. The study is also establishing concrete links between the social sciences and the humanities, bringing together aspects of anthropology, sociology, psychology, history and geography. Migratourima shows that research on tourism and migration – two very important issues of our time – should not be limited to applied science but can contribute to social sciences in general. At the same time, the theory and findings generated by this case study will support policy-making, planning, and development within the EU. Finally, Migratourima is set to bring mobility-related research increasingly to the centre of the social sciences, as well as moving academic inquiry closer to public interest.

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