Edinburgh Napier University
Image: Ardvreck, 'Project 404' (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Presenter: Rodanthi Tzanelli
School of Sociology & Social Policy, University of Leeds
The presentation interrogates the rationale of contemporary Greek hospitality through two types of tourism imaginaries in the context of the current European economic crisis. A radical change in the ‘picture’ of the country circulates in global media conduits that connects to past and present conceptions of philoxenia: the love of strangers, who can nevertheless be both tourists and refugees for Greeks. More specifically, I detect the emergence of a new dark and slum imaginary, which is propagated by both native and global intellectuals-activists and artists and globally disseminated in the blogosphere, the press and via other new media formats. I argue that the new imaginary of darkness, which is not dissociated from the gentleness and aesthetic-cum-emotional engagement with the other/stranger, bears the potential to re-invent Greece as a tourist destination. The change, which is informed by the European histories of art, slum and dark tourism, draws on middle-class refinement and philanthropy. But it also has its by-products in the domestic public sphere, which attains a revamped cosmopolitan ethos. This is so, because such blended foreign and domestic activist participation promotes a heroicised native ethos of salvation, closer to native histories of uprooting and forced relocation. The impoverished Greeks are recognised in this new imaginary as welcoming, empathic hosts (phíloi tõn xénõn) for the new non-Greek refugees from war-trodden world zones, and not just for affluent tourists. The paper interrogates the axiological basis of such ‘worldmaking processes’ that exceed but do not eliminate the monetary rationale of hospitality, as this is fed back into dark travel. Fusing cognitive/strategic, aesthetic and emotional motivation, these processes bear the potential to bring together tourism and wider global social imaginaries not in spite of, but in coordination with new neoliberal imaginaries of mobility.