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Worlds of Imagination. A Comparative Study of Film Tourism in India, Brazil, Jamaica, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - Film Tourism (Worlds of Imagination. A Comparative Study of Film Tourism in India, Brazil, Jamaica, South Korea and the United Kingdom.)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2019-09-01 do 2021-02-28

"The research project “Worlds of Imagination” focuses on film tourism: the phenomenon of people visiting locations from popular films or TV series. Recent years have seen explosive growth in this type of tourism, with far-reaching implications for the experience and organization of landscapes. This project investigates why and under what circumstances films or TV series give rise to new tourism flows, and which variations can be found based on the specific characteristics of the films/series, local film or tourism policies and the tourists involved.

Our premise is that every person possesses a geographical imagination: a cohesive picture of places, regions and countries. The construction of this geographical imagination is increasingly reliant on media images. This development has led to a widespread desire for a personal, unmediated experience of lieux d’imagination: actual locations that can serve as material validation. What we are asserting in this project is that the emergence of these lieux d’imagination is not a univocal process, but involves significant variations depending on, amongst other, cross-cultural differences in the current global society.

Film tourism has received a growing amount of attention from scholars in various academic disciplines. However, the existing knowledge about this phenomenon is still highly fragmented and mostly based on individual case studies from Western countries. This project is the first to adopt an international comparative approach, involving an analysis and comparison of film tourism in five countries of varying size and wealth from different continents. By investigating commonalities and differences, we highlight how media stimulate the geographical imagination and literally ‘move’ their audiences in a variety of contexts. The research is based on a combination of qualitative content analysis, ethnographic fieldwork and experimental methods.

The ""Worlds of Imagination"" project focuses on the phenomenon of film tourism in five locations, divided over five sub-projects. In addition, the Principal Investigator tackles more general questions, based on cross-project comparisons.

The sub-project taking place in Brazil investigates the sustainability of media tourism in sensitive areas through in-depth interviews with various actors involved in the media (and) tourism industries. Presently, four rounds of fieldwork were conducted (for two case studies), which so far yielded one academic paper (submitted for publication, forthcoming). The PhD candidate Débora Póvoa continues to gather and analyse data for upcoming publications.

The India sub-project looks closely at the influence of the Bollywood cinema. Until this point, PhD candidate Apoorva Nanjangud conducted fieldwork in the Netherlands, with a focus on the cinematic imaginations of India among the Dutch-Hindustani Indian diaspora; and in Iceland, with a focus on Indian tourists visiting Iceland under the influence of Bollywood cinema. The in-depth interviews conducted with various stakeholders so far resulted in the publication of one academic article (2019) and the submission for publication of a second article (forthcoming).

The first case study in the UK sub-project addresses the ways in which the tourist gaze is constructed within film tours. For this investigation, PhD candidate Rosa Schiavone conducted participant observations in Edinburgh, gathering an extensive collection of field notes, personal voice recordings, online itineraries photographs, screenshots and information brochures. This resulted so far in one academic publication (submitted, forthcoming). Her second case study focuses on the ways in which heritage sites in Scotland make use of popular culture in the re-telling of local histories. The fieldwork will take place in 2019 and will include methods of site analysis, qualitative interviewing and thematic analysis of secondary documents.

For the sub-project addressing film tourism in Jamaica (and the wider Anglophone Caribbean), dr. Martens has conducted fieldwork in Toronto (Canada), Kingston (Jamaica) and Port of Spain (Trinidad & Tobago). In all three cases, the fieldwork consisted of conducting interviews with different stakeholders in the industry (film commissions, members of the local filmmaking communities, film festival directors, etc). In the fieldwork period in Trinidad & Tobago, participatory observation was also used to collect data, namely during the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival. The fieldwork resulted in three academic articles, one published in 2018, and two forthcoming ones (of which one is accepted, and one submitted for publication).

For the South Korea sub-project, PhD candidate Henry Chow performed fieldwork on various media tourist attractions sites in South Korea, and conducted interviews with K-drama fans who trace and blog about filming locations. One academic article has resulted from this first case study, which is currently being prepared for submission later this month. The case study was developed during an initial fieldwork period in summer 2017, during which Chow collected detailed field notes and visited numerous media tourism locations and events. The fieldwork was followed with an extended data collection period, when he focused on conducting in-depth interviews with K-drama location bloggers.

For the overarching sub-project, Principal Investigator Stijn Reijnders aimed to provide an empirical exploration of the places and spaces that are of importance for people’s individual state of mind.
In order to investigate this, Reijnders interviewed 17 individuals currently residing in the Netherlands. This research resulted in two publications: 1) the introduction to the edited volume Locating Imagination (currently under review at Routledge) and 2) the paper “Places in Mind. A Journey through the Imagination” (abstract accepted by the Journal of Popular Culture).

Since the beginning of the project, the team has registered several notable accomplishments. First, the conference “Locating Imagination: Popular Culture, Tourism, and Belonging”, organized by the Principal Investigator in April 2017, was a highly successful event, bringing together more than hundred excellent researchers from around the world to discuss the interconnections between the fields of tourism and popular culture in the current media age and providing the perfect stage for the kick-off of our project (for more information, please visit Moreover, the invited experts provided valuable feedback for the starting phase of the individual projects. Secondly, the team has been meeting on a monthly basis to discuss state-of-the-art literature and to monitor the progress of research and future actions. These meetings have been an important space for team consolidation and have resulted in productive plans of action, such as the development of workshops and academic seminars that can aid the dissemination of information among scholars as well as the broader public. Lastly, using a multidisciplinary approach, the team has collected and analysed a rich corpus of data that resulted in several academic publications.

For the UK sub-project, the researcher so far conducted fieldwork for two case studies. The first case study explores how the tourist gaze is constructed within film tours in (the proximity to) Edinburgh. For this study, Schiavone explored four online film tours through participant observation. During these tours, the researcher observed the tours in terms of elements they consisted of, the way they were structured, the kinds of narratives that are provided. The primary data gathered from this fieldwork consists of extensive field notes, screenshots from the apps and online itineraries and personal photographs. In a second fieldtrip, Schiavone participated in four film tours in and around Edinburgh (a combination of a walking tour and a bus tour). The primary data gathered from this fieldwork consists of extensive field notes, personal voice recordings with methodological and theoretical reflections, photographs of the filming sites and information brochures. All data is stored in the Erasmus secure data vault, which is only accessible to the World of Imagination research team.

Currently, Schiavone is working on her second case study that explores the ways in which heritage sites in Scotland make use of popular culture in the re-telling of local histories. Fieldwork for this case study will start from June 2019 onwards. The main methods that will be deployed are site analysis, qualitative interviewing and thematic analysis of secondary documents. A selection of heritage sites in Scotland will be subjected to a site analysis. Moreover, interviews will be conducted with people working at these heritage sites. In addition, promotional material in the form of for example brochures or advertisements will be thematically analysed.

For the India sub-project, the first case study involved interviewing people from the Dutch-Hindustani Indian diaspora to understand their cinematic imaginations of India. Nanjangud’s fieldwork was conducted with Hindustani people in the Netherlands and took place in different cities across the country. 17 interviews were conducted and later transcribed and analysed. This resulted in a research paper, which was submitted to the International Journal of Cultural Studies. Unfortunately, the paper was recently rejected by the journal. Nanjangud is currently revising the paper based on the reviewers’ feedback and preparing a new submission to an alternative journal later this month.

For her second case study, Nanjangud focused on the emergence of Iceland as a tourist destination among Indian tourists under the influence of Bollywood cinema. Moreover, she looked at the idea of re-enactments of Bollywood songs by the tourists. Therefore, the fieldwork was carried out in Iceland with a multi-actor approach interviewing tourists, film commissioners and production personnel to study the notion of metempsychosis or fan re-enactments in Bollywood Tourism. A total of 18 interviews were conducted for this case study.

Fieldwork for the Jamaica (and wider Anglophone Caribbean) sub-project has so far been conducted in Toronto (Canada), Kingston (Jamaica) and Port of Spain (Trinidad & Tobago). In all three cases, the fieldwork consisted of conducting interviews. In the fieldwork period in Trinidad & Tobago participatory observation was also used to collect data, namely during the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival.

In Toronto (2017), Martens conducted interviews with two members of the local filmmaking community and regular visitors of the Caribbean Tales Film Festival in Toronto, during his stay in the city for a conference. In Jamaica (2017), Martens conducted an interview with Jamaica’s film commissioner, for an academic article on Caribbean film commissions. The research for this article is still ongoing. In Trinidad & Tobago (2018), Martens conducted 5 interviews with various stakeholders in the film industry, which will be used in the academic article on Caribbean film commissions. The research is still ongoing. At the same time, during Martens’ stay in Port of Spain he attended the T&T Film Festival, the annual film festival of 'films from and about Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean and its diaspora' (festival website). It took place in in the latter half of September and ran for about two weeks. This participatory observation has been used for an academic article on the Jamaican urban crime film (submitted and accepted) and will been used for the academic article on Caribbean film commissions as well.

For the Brazil sub-project, Póvoa investigated the sustainability of media tourism in sensitive areas. This was done through qualitative in-depth interviews with locals directly or indirectly involved in the media (and) tourism dynamics: tour guides, local entrepreneurs, freelance extras, local media producers, community leaders, but also governmental representatives and members of film commissions.

Her first case study focused on the favelas Complexo do Alemão, in Rio de Janeiro, and Paraisópolis, in São Paulo. Póvoa conducted fieldwork in both communities, first between July and August 2017, and then between April and May 2018. A total of 24 interviews were done, out of which 20 informed Póvoa’s first paper (still to be published) and the remaining four will be used in future publications.

Her second case study focused on Cabaceiras, a small town in the state of Paraíba, Brazil, known as Roliúde Nordestina (‘Northeastern Hollywood’, in free translation). Póvoa did two rounds of fieldwork there, the first in May 2018 and the second in March 2019, and conducted 30 interviews. Currently she is writing her second research paper based on this fieldwork.

For the South Korea sub-project, Chow’s first case study concerns fans of South Korean television dramas who trace and blog about K-drama filming locations. The case study was developed during a fieldwork period in summer 2017, which consisted of visiting various media tourism attractions in South Korea, conducting on-site “surveys” and interviews with tourists, experimenting with various formats of respondent-produced material and identifying key informants for later case studies.

The main body of data used for the first case study are semi-structured in-depth interviews with 16 fans, tourists, tour operators and public officials involved with touristic visits to K-drama locations. The interviews were conducted by Chow face-to-face, through Skype video or audio call, or Facebook chat in 2017 and 2018. The mean duration of audio-recorded interviews was 78 minutes, and the text-based interviews averaged 3,880 words. Five of the interviews, with highly committed location bloggers who maintain(ed) an active blog with regular posts on K-drama locations, are especially key to the case.

While the five sub-projects focus on film tourism practices in individual countries, the Principal Investigator (PI) aims to tackle more general questions underlying the phenomenon of film tourism as a whole. For example, most work on film tourism focuses pre-dominantly on the film tourist experience - the actual moment of ‘being there’. Notwithstanding the importance of this moment in the media tourist experience, it is – in the end – only one specific moment in a longer sequence of events, feelings, dreams and experiences. Many of the fans will have (day)dreamed about this moment for a long time, thinking about ‘how it would be’ to stand there, to touch the Iron Throne, to hear the police sirens down there on the streets of Manhattan, to smell the woods of the The Walking Dead landscape. After their visit, their thoughts about these films, TV-series, novels, musicians or albums will not fade away but most probably continue for years to come, further stimulated by their visits. For his first case study, the PI wanted to investigate how these (day)dreams and memories concerning ‘places of the imagination’ fit in the more general mind-set of individuals. How to contextualize the experience of media tourism into the wider domain of everyday life? With this aim in mind, 15 respondents from different locations in the Netherlands were interviewed.

The progress towards the output is developing in line with the timeframe. Until this point, the research team has organised the kick-off conference “Locating Imagination” and has produced 8 academic publications (two are already published, and six are submitted for publication or currently under review). In addition, the research team is currently planning five workshops, aiming to connect various (public and academic) stakeholders in the film tourism industry. We are working towards the remaining outputs (dissertations, literature reviews, synthesizing manuscript), which are expected to be delivered within the given time period. A final conference will be organized at the end of the project as planned.
Since the beginning of the project, the research team has adopted an innovative approach to the study of film tourism. Our international comparative approach delivers a fundamental contribution to a growing but fragmented field of research. Not only does this approach challenge the Western bias of film tourism studies, it also, for the first time, brings the (often uneven) global politics of film tourism to the fore. Secondly, this project delivers a theorization of the role and importance of the imagination, a universal concept that has been largely under the radar of social and cultural scientists. Thirdly, based on a multidisciplinary approach, this project combines new methods such as cultural mapping with more traditional methods as participant observation and interviewing. Finally, this project offers an analysis of the growing influence of popular media culture on perceptions of belonging and related notions of local, regional or national identity in a globalized world. This theme is not only theoretically relevant but also of practical use for cultural heritage institutions, policy makers and other stakeholders on tourism and culture. Moreover, each sub-project contributes with its own unique features to furthering the state-of-the-art knowledge in the field.

The Brazil sub-project contributes to a scarce body of academic literature that deals with locals’ perceptions about film tourism, investigating the particularities of filming locations and the related tourism practices in sensitive territories of Brazil. Moreover, the sub-project brings a valuable contribution to the field by underlining the need for a holistic understanding of the ecology of film tourism and by considering the power dynamics and potential tensions between all the actors involved in the process.

The Jamaica & Caribbean sub-project brings a relevant novel contribution to theoretical conceptualizations of film tourism by addressing this phenomenon form a “demand-side perspective” and by contextualizing, historicizing and critically approaching the research objects within the study of the creative industries (as a means of development) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Caribbean.

The United Kingdom sub-project expands the current theoretical debates by thoroughly examining the conflation of representative space and physical space within (film) tourism practices. Moreover, it generates valuable new empirical insights through the use of ethnographic methods, elucidating the specific ways in which this this conflation can be observed in the practice of film tours.

The South Korea sub-project zooms in on the scarcely discussed work of K-drama location bloggers, whose largely unpaid work to identify and collate filming locations online is crucial in facilitating media tourism flows. Moreover, the sub-project innovatively applies ethnographic interviewing to online fandom, allowing for highly relevant insights into the motivations, judgements and justifications given by fans themselves with regards to their work of location blogging.

In addition to its imperative scholarly contribution to the study of Bollywood tourism and the Indian diaspora, the India sub-project laid the foundation for a collaboration with Savitribai Phule Pune University, India. This is an important way of giving back academic input and generating global and local knowledge on the topic of Bollywood tourism, thereby adding to the holistic value of the project.

Similarly, the development of the new master’s course ‘Media tourism’ by the Principal Investigator is a highly valuable tool for the dissemination of the state-of-the-art knowledge generated by the ERC project and its transfer to new
generations of international students.