My research interests coalesce around two main areas: multispecies interactions and gender. While these two topics may seem rather different at first, for me they both come from a position based in relational ethics that foregrounds interactions between different actors and builds on an intersectional feminist perspective that acknowledges interlocking structures and practices of power, privilege and marginalisation.
Who am I?
I am a sociologist and came to the field of tourism studies almost accidentally, having started out studying equestrian sport and gender within a critical management school for my PhD. At this stage, I did not really realise that tourism was a distinct academic field so when I started my first position as a lecturer in events management, I embarked on a steep learning curve. I have always felt like something of an outsider in tourism studies, although this is slowly changing. An advantage of this otherness has been that I do not always feel the same constraints as some of my ‘pure tourism’ peers and colleagues to play along with the well-established norms and practices of the field in terms of research approach, methods, theory and outlets for publication.
I am comfortable drawing on and speaking to academics in broader related fields, such as the sociology of work, leisure studies and animal studies. My work is transdisciplinary, and I believe tourism scholars can often do more to both learn from and contribute to debates occurring in other fields. In my own research I draw on broader theories of gender, power and more-than-human becoming which I think offer fruitful avenues for enriching understanding of different practices, identities and struggles that manifest within tourism.
Having said this, I am proud to now situate myself in the field of tourism studies. As a major industry that shapes lives on individual, community, national and global levels, tourism is one of the most important phenomena of contemporary times. By bringing ideas from other fields into tourism studies and then taking ideas developed in relation to tourism back out to other fields I believe my work helps advance understanding about some of the complexities of tourism in a multispecies world.
Multispecies interactions in tourism
Nonhuman animals play prominent roles in tourism, whether they be attractions to be gazed upon in zoos, sanctuaries or wild locations, or workers helping to deliver products and services for tourists and hosts, or symbols that represent regions and countries. Research in tourism studies has tended to focus predominantly on ethics (e.g. Winter, 2020), with far more attention paid to ‘wild’ than domestic animals. My own research focuses mainly on the role of horses in tourism, leisure and events and shifts debates from ethics (which remain an important baseline) to also include issues related to work, interactions and identities.
One of my main contributions is in relation to conceptualising animals in general, and horses in particular, as workers within the tourism industry (Dashper, 2021). Work is a political terrain, and so it is a political act to recognise animals as workers in tourism. They are not merely tools to be used and abused, or attractions or background to the main action of human tourism. Rather, animals play active roles in co-constructing tourism practices and experiences and I argue that research needs to account for the various ways in which animals can and do shape tourism. Focusing on horses involved in trekking tourism, I have argued that, in some cases, animals should be recognised as workers in tourism organisations, performing alongside human workers and in collaboration with human tourists and other animals and environmental actors (Dashper, 2020a). Drawing on Hochschild’s (1983) work, I suggest that these horses are required to perform emotional labour in service to commercial tourism companies, having to embody organisationally-dictated ‘feeling rules’ and engaging in both surface and deep acting in their interactions with tourists and other workers. I argue that expanding the conceptualisation and application of emotional labour to include animals is important in opening up understanding of the multiple forms of labour that often serve to marginalise many workers in the tourism industry, both human and nonhuman.
It is only recently that tourism researchers have started to embrace multispecies approaches that recognise the messy entanglements between human and nonhuman actors (e.g. Valtonen, Salmela & Rantala, 2020). In my own work I advocate a multispecies perspective that aims to “challenge the deep-rooted human exceptionalism that positions humans as the only worthy focus for attention, and to acknowledge the importance of nonhuman animals in their own right, and in their interactions with and influences on human worlds” (Dashper & Buchmann, 2020: 295). This involves being attentive to the interactions between human and nonhuman animals, as well as the potential for animals to exercise agency and act in often surprising (to humans) ways. This requires flexible and innovative methodologies, such as multispecies ethnography, to begin to try to understand aspects of tourism at least partly on the terms of animals as well as people.
However, although animals can and do act and influence tourism encounters and practices, this happens within the confines of human-centric power relations that prioritise human interests above all else. Tourism is a human practice which places all other animals in a relatively subordinate position (see Dashper, 2020b). It is here that an intersectional feminist lens can usefully complement a multispecies one, in illustrating how multiple forms of privilege and marginalisation – be these in relation to gender, race or species, for example – position some groups and individuals as relatively powerless and vulnerable to exploitation. The precarity of work in the tourism industry – whether this work be conducted by humans or nonhumans – makes tourism a particularly important site for examining issues of power, privilege, marginalisation and subordination. In my research I am examining what ‘decent work’ might really be in (and beyond) tourism, for both humans and nonhumans.
The future of tourism in a more-than-human world
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the interconnections between human and nonhuman worlds more visible, illustrating our mutual dependence and constitution, in both positive and negative ways. For tourism and tourism research, these multispecies entanglements are likely to become more prominent and pressing to address. I hope my own role within this will be to keep advocating for those on the margins – whether human or nonhuman – and to contribute to knowledge and discussions about the ways in which tourism can contribute to more just and equitable futures for all as we look for ways to coexist and hopefully thrive in a multispecies world.
Written by Kate Dashper, Leeds Beckett University, United Kingdom
Read Kate’s letter to future generations of tourism researchers
Dashper, K. (2020a). More‐than‐human emotions: Multispecies emotional labour in the tourism industry. Gender, Work & Organization, 27(1), 24-40.
Dashper, K. (2020b). Holidays with my horse: Human-horse relationships and multispecies tourism experiences. Tourism Management Perspectives, 34, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tmp.2020.100678~
Dashper, K. (2021). Conceptualizing non-human animals as ‘workers’ within the tourism industry. In J. M. Rickly and C. Kline (eds) Exploring non-human work in tourism: From beasts of burden to animal ambassadors. De Gruyter, 21-36.
Dashper, K., & Buchmann, A. (2020). Multispecies event experiences: Introducing more-than-human perspectives to event studies. Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events, 12(3), 293-309.
Valtonen, A., Salmela, T., & Rantala, O. (2020). Living with mosquitoes. Annals of Tourism Research, 83, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annals.2020.102945
Winter, C. (2020). A review of animal ethics in tourism: Launching the annals of tourism research curated collection on animal ethics in tourism. Annals of Tourism Research, 84, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annals.2020.102989