The objective of this anthropological research is to study empirically how imaginaries of tourism to and immigration from “the South” (Africa, Latin America, and Asia) are interlinked and what this tells us about multiculturalism and representations of otherness. The main hypothesis is that prevailing images and discourse represent travel to and from the South in ways that seem disconnected from the lived present but connected with an imagined past. This proposition will be analyzed through an in-depth study of how people in Brussels, Belgium, imagine and represent tourism to and migration from Indonesia, Tanzania, and Chile. The research will employ a mixed-methods approach, involving observation, interviews, archival research, and the collection of images and discourse from secondary sources (TV, advertising, printed press, digital media, cinema, photography and exhibitions). The ethnographic perspective will provide a close-grained analysis of the cultural practices and social relations that (re)produce globally circulating imaginaries of mobility and the implications this has for people’s lives. The project adds to existing research in two ways. In the study, imaginaries (representational systems that mediate reality and form identities) are operationalized as real practices: through the ethnographic method we can assess how imaginary activities, subjects, and social relations are materialized, enacted, and inculcated. Thematically, the research analyzes how widespread imaginaries and personal imaginations about mobility are interconnected and contradicting each other. The study links strongly between the social sciences and the humanities, drawing on the need to bring together aspects of anthropology, sociology, psychology, history, and geography. This timely project will enable a promising researcher affiliated with a top university in the USA to reintegrate himself in the EU, helping him to expand his academic career and facilitate the transfer of knowledge.
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