Queer perspectives on tourism geographies



Publication Details

Waitt , G. (2012). Queer perspectives on tourism geographies. In J. Wilson (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Tourism Geographies (pp. 82-89). Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge.


This chapter explores queer perspectives on tourism geographies. It complements other reviews locating the intersections between geographies of sexuality and tourism (for example such as Johnston, 2005; Johnston and Longhurst, 2010; Waitt and Markwell, 2006; Waitt et al. , 2008). I am interested in the ways that queer perspectives provide theoretical tools to think spatially about the relationships between tourism and sexuality. The aims of a queer perspective are twofold: to disrupt the categorical stability of heterosexuality as 'normal' in everyday spaces; and to reveal the flexibility of sexuality. As Browne et al. (2007: 8) argue, queer geographies explicitly 'question the . . . stable relationship between sex, gender, sexual desire and sexual practice'. The chapter sketches the ways that tourism geographies have made a range of conceptual and empirical advances in geographical work on tourism that interrogates the relationship between sexuality and space. First, I examine how queer perspectives have questioned the spatial imaginaries of tourism research. Here I outline how queer perspectives have challenged understandings of gay tourism that draw upon the spatial imaginary of closet space or the 'gay ghetto'. I argue that when tourism research is framed through the spatial lens of the closet, this denies the potential for change of sexual categories of the self and the patterning of social interactions in forging sexuality. To argue that (hetero)sexuality is not a pre-existing entity, but is the outcome of a socio-spatial process, we outline how geographers have advocated for the application of feminist critical social theory on embodiment (see also Tivers, Chapter 11 in this volume). Second, we turn to the context of recent marketing campaigns of the Western 'gay tourism industry' sponsored by states that once imprisoned homosexuals and the emergence of the stereotyped tourist figure of the affluent gay white male. Queer perspectives on tourism geographies have been grappling with the gradual normalisation of particular forms of homosexuality within the neoliberal market place, and the implications for more radical imperatives of queer politics to blur and reveal the inconsistencies of sexual and gender categories.

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