Religion and Tourism: Crossroads, Destinations and Encounters – By Michael Stausberg
Article first published online: 11 JUN 2012
© 2012 by the American Anthropological Association
Anthropology and Humanism
Volume 37, Issue 1, pages 120–121, June 2012
How to Cite
PASSARIELLO, P. (2012), Religion and Tourism: Crossroads, Destinations and Encounters – By Michael Stausberg. Anthropology and Humanism, 37: 120–121. doi: 10.1111/j.1548-1409.2012.01119.x
- Issue published online: 11 JUN 2012
- Article first published online: 11 JUN 2012
Religion and Tourism: Crossroads, Destinations and Encounters . New York : Routledge , 2011 . xii + 225 pp., notes, references, index ..
Whereas in most areas of social science (e.g., anthropology, sociology, economics), tourism has been a valid and growing area of scholarly inquiry for at least 30-plus years, Michael Stausberg, a professor of religion at the University of Bergen, Norway, claims that religion scholars have generally overlooked, underplayed, or even marginalized the influence and relevance of tourism to their field. In his new book, Religion and Tourism: Crossroads, Destinations and Encounters, Stausberg builds a strong case for the importance of the pervasive and dynamic interactions between religion and tourism in the contemporary world.
As indicated by the subtitle, the book is organized into three major areas: “crossroads,” looking at the historical overlaps between religion and tourism, such as pilgrimage; “destinations,” looking at the various crossover locales between tourism and religion ranging from UNESCO World Heritage sites to what he labels as “airport ministries” and New Age “power places;” and finally “encounters,” suggesting that tourism provides a major “contact zone” for different peoples (and their religions). Stausberg details a variety of places where religious practitioners and tourists meet, ranging from encounters with indigenous cultures, where religious activities can become an “attraction,” to the supposed commercialization worldwide of “shamanism.” He even addresses some of the more mundane aspects of religious tourism, such as the roles of guides, guidebooks, and souvenirs in religious tourism.
Stausberg has, to some extent, done his homework and mentions many of the important tourism scholars, such as MacCannell, Graburn, Bremmer, Cohen, to name just a few. But then he stops short, rarely applying any theoretical analysis at all. In fact, what this book provides is an extensive compendium—a comprehensive listing reminiscent of Frazer's The Golden Bough—of the many cross-cultural and worldwide overlaps between tourism and religion, emphasizing particularities and diversities, rather than any underlying big-picture connections revealed by the detailed examples.
At times, Stausberg is absurdly thorough and sometimes redundant in his detail. Ironically, as a scholar of things spiritual and perhaps elusive by definition, Stausberg is overly literal in his interpretations (or sometimes his misinterpretations) of the role of tourism in religious studies. His conclusions on most levels are primarily descriptive, rather than theoretical, analytical, or synthesizing. In summary, the book presents a very wide-ranging set of ethnographic data that is impressive in scope, but, rather uncritical and without nuance in presentation. Ultimately, this book is likely to be of greatest use to religious scholars, rather than a major contribution to the scholarly study of tourism.