A personal reflection on my contribution to tourism knowledge
How are we to imagine tourism knowledge? We could see this as a vast landscape with different cultures, spaces and environments, ruins and new constructions appearing here and there. The problem I see with this metaphor is that it calls for the vastness of horizons and a sense of grandiosity that is difficult to envision for tourism scholarship. There is a humble warning in knowledge’s classical metaphorical language, which insists in fields and areas (of knowledge) instead of oceans and skies. Personally, I have always preferred the metaphor of the house. A house has many different rooms, different functions, a history, it can be expanded and changed, its modifications reflect the passing of time – the fashions, cultures and financial ups and downs, it can feel welcoming or threatening, some feel it like a home and others as a foreign space. A house is affected and affects its surroundings and the people that inhabit it. It is not easy to answer the question put forward by the editors of this volume – What has been my contribution to tourism knowledge? But the question can be reformulated based on this imagination – in what way is the house different because I visited and stayed? Has my being ‘there’ made any difference at all, and if so, in what way?
I believe that the most important aspect of my presence in the house of tourism knowledge are the ideas and relations that are established when creating, thinking and being together. Knowledge is not something detached (out there) but deeply embodied. We feel it and we feel for it. It is spoken, written, discussed, embraced and rejected relationally. In this journey I have very often felt that I had no specific direction, no traditional focus or purpose, instead my scholarly work was a combination of curiosity, chance, need, honesty and being with others. There is a messy existential combination of factors that makes one’s life in academia a serendipitous at times exhilarating and at times excruciating stay (Pernecky, Munar & Wheeller, 2016).
I entered the house in my early 30s. It happened by chance. While doing my PhD on the topic of globalization and democracy I selected tourism higher education as my empirical field to examine how academic knowledge is created, institutionalized and globalized. One could say that I wasn’t studying ‘tourism’ as a phenomenon per se, instead I was studying tourism knowledge and tourism academia. I was like the external auditor that comes to the house trying to make a map of its history and structure. How was such a house built? Who’s powers made it possible, which relationships? Why did it look as it did? Who was included and excluded from the house? I was applying political philosophy (specifically the tradition of critical thought and the philosophy of Jürgen Habermas) to provide an epistemological and political analysis of how tourism research and education had come to exist (Munar, 2006, 2007a, 2007b). At the time I had the luck to have a kind and wise mentor, my Ph.D. supervisor, Jafar Jafari. My passion for epistemology (to understand the nature and possibilities of human knowledge), is still as strong as it was over 18 years ago. I have addressed the question of knowing through my studies on: postdisciplinarity and how to open up to multiple knowledges and forms of expressing knowledge (Munar, Pernecky, & Feighery, 2016); the role of desire and emotions in knowing (Munar & Hall, 2020) ; the challenges of systems’ colonization in knowledge production (Munar, 2016); the critique and understanding of paradigms (Munar & Jamal, 2016) and metrics (Munar, 2019), and most specially I have focused on gender equity and inclusion in tourism academia (Munar, 2017; Munar, Khoo-Lattimore, C., Chambers & Biran, 2017), where I have contributed with extensive scholarship and continue to develop policy tools, and to support communities and initiatives for change (Munar et al, 2015; Munar et al., 2017; Munar 2018). The later contribution is only possible because of many hours of community work with scholars that I deeply admire and trust like Donna Chambers, Nigel Morgan, Catheryn Khoo-Lattimore, Elaine Yang, Claudia Eger … these are only a part of a large community of people across generations and across continents that has put many hours of work to fight for gender equality.
I have been inside the house of tourism looking outside, and outside looking in. But the wish of my heart continues to be a similar one – I want to expand and make more welcoming and freer the spaces where knowledge can happen, tear up walls, transform walls into canvases, invite new people and ideas. When you produce knowledge about the possibilities of knowing, knowledge is action and knowledge is life. Knowledge is your body and your voice and your loves. Knowledge is every time one feels ‘we’. Having long conversations in the kitchen of the house long into the night matter as much or more than high rankings, getting people to join in a performance or to dare experiment becomes more important than bonuses or official recognitions. I deeply believe in the transformative power of ideas when they are shared and lived. Ideas and words free us and imprison us, they make us ‘see’ in specific ways, they ground who we are and most importantly, who we can become. Therefore one of the things I am most proud of is having contributed to organizing and chairing the conferences of Tourism Postdisciplinarity with Tomas Pernecky (Freedom. Art. Power. Copenhagen, 2015) and Critical Tourism Studies with Kellee Caton (Understand tourism – change tourism. Understand ourselves – change ourselves, Mallorca, 2017, and Pride and prejudice: Que(e)rying tourism hope, Ibiza, 2019). The calls for papers, the activities and the spirit of the scholars that joined these conferences expanded and transformed the house. These spaces allowed for new imaginations about what it means to be a tourism academic and what are the topics and questions that can constitute a tourism research agenda. When I write or act from that place of community, I have a sense that scholarship can transform and emancipate the house, its surroundings and ourselves.
Throughout the years I have written many publications, more than I can remember, on tourism and digital technologies, on consumer cultures, on innovation, on destination management… most of the times taking a philosophical approach to these different topics. Did these publications change anything? Maybe. I believe that the major contribution of this part of my scholarship was to introduce critical and philosophical approaches to the area of tourism digital technologies, which was and is dominated by managerial and instrumental approaches to knowledge (Munar, 2013). To do this was not an easy task. I wasn’t welcomed in that part of the house and received many rejections and long angry reviews of academics that couldn’t relate to philosophy or meant I had to cite all previous managerial research if I ever wanted to get published in that field. My publications in this area have a rebellious heart, they are the ones that demanded of me more perseverance and a healthy sense of entitlement – there is so much more to tourism and technology than ‘managing’. Recently, I was invited to give a keynote for Ph.D. students at a tourism technology conference and was told that the decision to invite me had been polemic and wasn’t welcomed by some senior scholars of that community. To transform a house is not always easy and to compensate for exhaustion and loneliness nothing like finding other academics with similar values and a passion for thinking differently. I am extremely thankful to the collaborations with Szilvia Gyimóthy (Munar & Gyimóthy, 2013), Richard Ek (Munar & Ek, 2014; Munar and Ek, 2021 forthcomming) and Mads Bødker (Bødker & Munar, 2014; Munar & Bødker, 2014; Munar & Bødker, 2018; Munar et al., 2021), who were there helping me to open a new window in the main room of tourism and technology.
This wasn’t the first time I had heard that my ‘kind’ of scholarship was unwelcomed or problematic and it might not be the last one. Is producing inconvenient or different knowledge a contribution? In the house of tourism academia there are still many tribal spaces and we tend to stick to our silos even inside the same area of research. And there are also mostly men and masculinity in the spaces of power of the house, a dominance of English, of Western thought and tradition, of specific ways of teaching, writing and expressing, expectations of how one is supposed to look like or to come from. Sometimes the contribution is simply staying when one feels like leaving. Staying there as if one belonged to places where one clearly doesn’t, leaving a trace or an opening. Sometimes the contribution is to give a keynote in a colourful dress or to make baby-sitting a basic service of an academic conference. Sometimes the contribution is being true to one’s truth, for example denouncing the alienation of metric systems, neoliberalism and democratic deficit in tourism academia (Munar 2016, 2019), so that others can be true to theirs.
And then there are my many other publications and research projects (for a full CV see www.cbs.dk/en/staff/anmmpp). I believe that if some of these disappeared very little will change. It would be like changing some pillows of the sofa in one of the rooms of the house. This includes some of my most cited papers. These publications are solid work and that is ok, but if I was never to be credited for them, that would be fine too. The days that I am optimistic I think that they are far from brilliant but they are honest (and that is meant without irony, honest thinking is the outmost I aspire to), other days, the most pessimistic ones, I think they are noise, quantity, too superficial, part of the rush of busyness and production madness (more and more) that academic cultures are full of. But the truth is, one never knows who reads and what one’s work can mean for others, in that way it is always like an offering.
Living philosophy is what I aspire to. I hope I contribute to tourism knowledge not only with content, but by showing a way of being a tourism academic. My research practice is to follow my curiosity even if it seems that it is taking me far away from the house and from dominant academic systems of merit. Lived experience has taught me that you can go on exploration and take the house with you, but also that at times one doubts if one belongs. It is curiosity and companionship what allows me to keep on creating meaning and community and to broaden what a field of knowledge can be, like if the house could be transformed into temporary nomadic camps or creative festivals. Currently I am deeply engaged in several projects with this spirit. I have written a book on the nature of “Desire” (forthcoming), a philosophical and poetic exploration on gender, “I am Man”, (Munar, 2020), a book on “Sexism in Danish Higher Education and Research”, which is part of a major national initiative on #metoo in Danish academia (Einersen et al. 2021), and a paper about Muxes, the indigenous third gender in Mexico with Jacobo Ramírez (forthcoming). These projects are formally outside tourism, but in reality they are deeply interlinked with those that I am exploring in tourism such as: the special issue with Claudia Eger and Cathy Hsu “Gender and Tourism Sustainability” (2021); Infrapolitics in volunteer tourism with Amira Benali and Emmanuel Adu-Ampong; the philosophy of intrusion as a way of understanding the pandemic and tourism (inspired by the philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy) and “Wall, Pine and Sea”, a slow research project where I explore tourism spaces, ethics and contemplation using new materialism and creative writing, these two later projects with Adam Doering; and I continue to co-chair the network of Critical Tourism Studies with Kellee Caton. For all of these I am so deeply thankful. These creative and beloved colleagues make my academic life joyful. How is then knowledge transformed because of that, through that? Most of these projects aim to open up the way we understand tourism by transforming the way we understand the human condition. Especially the ones with Adam Doering are reclaiming the art of contemplation and conversation as a way to knowing. In my mind the explorations outside of tourism nurture the work in the inside, these writings are all interlinked in a postdisciplinary fashion. Time will tell if they are to change the house in anyway, certainly these collaborations and this “thinking/being together” are the sunshine entering through the windows.
I look back to my academic writings and activities and I see me in all of them; in the loved ones and the forgotten or despised ones. I see the mother of three kids trying to get a job in academia, making compromises, finding time to read anywhere and anytime, commuting, mentoring, partying, feeling mostly an outsider to academic cultures, a scholar with deep passion and without an academic discipline, suffering from and fighting sexism, learning to write in English, an emigrant for most of my academic life, always at the periphery of the departments I was employed in, finding love and meaning in friendship and specific academic communities such as the Critical Tourism Studies or the Nordic network of tourism scholars. I look back and see someone that said ‘yes’ to many writing projects and institutional responsibilities because of solidarity, friendship and at times a mistaken sense of duty. That same willingness is also what brought me some of the most meaningful relationships in my life. My contribution, if any, is theirs too. The tourism knowledge that I have created, received and shared is thanks to them and because of them.
Written by Ana María Munar, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Read Ana’s letter to future generations of tourism researchers
Benali, A., Munar, A. M., & Adu-Ampong, E. (Forthcoming). Beyond the Smile: The Infrapolitics of the Host in Volunteer Tourism.
Bødker, M., & Munar, A. M. (2014). New Territories in Information Technologies and Tourism Research. In A. A. Lew, C. M. Hall, & A. M. Williams (Eds.), The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Tourism. (pp. 262-274). Chapter 21. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Einersen, A.F. et al (2021). Sexism in Danish Higher Education and Research: Understanding, Exploring, Acting. Draft version, Copenhagen, March 2021. Retrieved from https://sexismedu.dk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/SEXISM-IN-DANISH-HIGHER-EDUCATION-AND-RESEARCH_first-draft_March-8-2021.pdf
Eger, C., Munar, A. M., & Hsu, C. (Forthcoming 2021). Gender and Tourism Sustainability. Journal of Sustainable Tourism.
Critical Tourism Studies Conference, (2017). Understand tourism – change tourism. Understand ourselves – change ourselves, Call for Contributions. Retrieved from https://anamariamunar.wixsite.com/cts7/call-for-presentations
Critical Tourism Studies Conference, (2019). Pride and prejudice: Que(e)rying tourism hope, call for contributions. Retrieved from https://www.criticaltourismstudies.info/call-for-contributions
Munar, A. M. (2006). Ph.D.: Tourism Education and Globalization: The Bologna Process. Palma: Universitat de les Illes Balears.
Munar, A. M. (2007a). Rethinking Globalization Theory in Tourism. Tourism, Culture and Communication, 7(2), pp. 99-115
Munar, A. M. (2007b). Is the Bologna Process Globalizing Tourism Higher Education? Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Education, 6(2), 68-82.
Munar, A. M. (2013). Paradoxical Digital Worlds. In A. M. Munar, S. Gyimóthy, & L. Cai (Eds.), Tourism Social Media: Transformations in Identity, Community and Culture. (pp. 35-53). Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited. (Tourism Social Science Series, Vol. 18).
Munar, A. M., & Gyimóthy, S. (2013). Critical Digital Tourism Studies. I A. M. Munar, S. Gyimóthy, & L. Cai (Eds.), Tourism Social Media: Transformations in Identity, Community and Culture. (pp. 245-262). Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited. (Tourism Social Science Series, Vol. 18).
Munar, A. M., & Bødker, M. (2014). Information Technologies and Tourism: The Critical Turn in Curriculum Development. In D. Dredge, D. Airey, & M. J. Gross (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Tourism and Hospitality Education. (pp. 105‐117). Abingdon: Routledge.
Munar, A. M., & Ek, R. (2014). Relationbits: You, Me and the Other., In T. Miller (Ed.) The Routledge Companion to Global Popular Culture. (pp. 137‐148) New York: Routledge.
Munar, A. M., Biran, A., Budeanu, A., Caton, K., Chambers, D., Dredge, D., Gyimóthy, S., Jamal, T., Larson, M., Nilsson Lindström, K., Nygaard, L., Ram, Y. (2015). The Gender Gap in the Tourism Academy: Statistics and Indicators of Gender Equality. Copenhagen: While Waiting for the Dawn. (Report)
Munar, A. M., Pernecky, T., & Feighery, W. (2016). An Introduction to Tourism Postdisciplinarity. Tourism Analysis, 21(4), 343-347.
Munar, A. M. (2016). The House of Tourism Studies and the Systemic Paradigm. In A. M. Munar, & T. Jamal (Eds.), Tourism Research Paradigms: Critical and Emergent Knowledges. (pp. 131–153). Chapter 8. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited. (Tourism Social Science Series, Vol. 22)
Munar, A. M., & Jamal, T. (2016). What are Paradigms for?. In A. M. Munar, & T. Jamal (Eds.), Tourism Research Paradigms: Critical and Emergent Knowledges. (pp. 1-16). Chapter 1. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited. (Tourism Social Science Series, Vol. 22)
Munar, A. M. (2017). To be a Feminist in (Tourism) Academia. Anatolia: An International Journal of Tourism & Hospitality Research, 28(4), 514-529.
Munar, A. M., Khoo-Lattimore, C., Chambers, D., & Biran, A. (2017). The Academia We Have and the One We Want: On the Centrality of Gender Equality. Anatolia: An International Journal of Tourism & Hospitality Research, 28(4), 582-591.
Munar, A. M., Caton, K., Eger, C., Jeffrey, H., Khoo-Lattimore, C., Lynch, P. Yang, E. (2017). The Beauty and the Abuse: A Handbook on Relationships and Emotions in Academia. Copenhagen: Women Academics in Tourism.
Munar, A. M. (Producer), & Bødker, M. (Producer). (2018). The Sounds of Heritage. Sound/Visual production (digital) https://vimeo.com/236751425
Munar, A. M. (2018). Dancing between Anger and Love: Reflections on Feminist Activism. Ephemera: Theory & politics in organization, 18(4), 955-970.
Munar, A. M. (2019). Hyper Academia. International Journal of Tourism Cities, 5(2), 219-231.
Munar, A. M., & Hall, L. (2020). Desire as a Way of Knowing. In T. Pernecky (Ed.), Postdisciplinary Knowledge (pp. 84-96). Abingdon: Routledge.
Munar, A. M. (2020). I Am Man. Copenhagen.
Munar, A. M., Meged, J. W., Bødker, M., & Wiedemann, C. D. (2021). Existential Walking. Annals of Tourism Research, 87, .
Munar, A. M., & Ek, R. (2021 Forthcoming). Digital Tourism Communication and Democracy. Tourism, Culture and Communication.
Munar, A. M. (Forthcoming). Desire.
Pernecky, T., Munar, A. M., & Wheeller, B. (2016). Existential Postdisciplinarity: Personal Journeys Into Tourism, Art, and Freedom. Tourism Analysis, 21(4), 389-401. https://doi.org/10.3727/108354216X14600320851730
Ramírez, J. & Munar, A. M. (Forthcomming). Hybrid Gender Colonization: The Case of Muxes.
Tourism Postdisciplinarity Conference (2015). Freedom. Art. Power., Call for Contributions. Retrieved from https://ammint.wixsite.com/postdisciplinarity2/call-for-presentations