For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Surveillance of the worlds of tourism: Foucault and the eye-of-power"

by Hollinshead, Keith (1999)


During the last decade, particularly following the publication of Urry’s (1990, TheTourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Society. London: Sage) text, the perspectival concept of the institutional/professional “gaze” has come into currency in tourism studies. while few reviews of Urry’s important work on the place and significance of tourism in postmodern society pay much attention to the French litero–philosophical construction le regard (which gave rise to the English term “the gaze”), Leiper has produced a useful foundational review of Urry’s debt to Foucauldian thought. This current article endeavours to take over where Leiper left off, and provides a more searching critique of the power of surveillance (le regard) in tourism, as it yields a dialectical inspection of Foucauldian thought concerning the eye-of-power as it acts through the institutions/organisations/agencies of tourism and travel (and of tourism and travel research). Such a power of surveillance – such a power of judgement and governance – is shown to be an authoritative mix of normalising discourse and universalising praxis which routinely privileges certain understandings of heritage/society/the world in and through tourism – as the eye-of-power can do in any institutional, professional, or aggregative setting. Through this Foucauldian vision, the individual who works in tourism (and he/she who travels!) is seen to be homo docilis – i.e., someone who not only participates in the regulation of the world and in the mastery of its social, cultural, natural and geographical environments, but who regulates and thereby constrains himself/herself through the ocularcentric out-looks which he/she upholds. The article seeks to reinvestigate the involvement of decision-making individuals in both investigative agendas in tourism research and in development practices in tourism management by hopefully making them much more other-regarded (and also self-aware) in terms of the governing suppositions and presuppositions they work to.

Key Passage

Thus by introducing Foucault’s concept of surveillance into tourism, Urry does not so much enable or encourage ‘host’ or ‘foreign’ populations to be studied, but he enables and encourages tourism administrators, tourism managers and tourism ‘professionals’ to be studied almost as if they were a foreign population acting with the domain of tourism. (p.15)


Tourism, Foucault, The Gaze, Eye-Of-Power, Surveillance, Subjects, Power-Knowledge, Will-To-Power, Self-Regulation, Governmentality


On Foucault, Foucault, Critical Management Studies

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