Wednesday 24 March 2021
14.00 - 16.00
Familiar Ground. Unravelling the Links between Nationalism and Tourism
P.N. van Eyckhof 3, 005
Tymen Peverelli :
Branding the Hometown: Tourism, Urban Identity and Nationalism in Nineteenth-century Belgium and the Netherlands
Andreas Stynen, Gerrit Verhoeven
Although tourism history remains an unexplored field of research, it could offer important insights into several vexed questions in nationalism studies. Among them is the issue of how people reconcile various territorial (be it local, regional, national or cosmopolitan) identities. This paper focuses on the ways in which tourism stimulated ... (Show more)
Although tourism history remains an unexplored field of research, it could offer important insights into several vexed questions in nationalism studies. Among them is the issue of how people reconcile various territorial (be it local, regional, national or cosmopolitan) identities. This paper focuses on the ways in which tourism stimulated the mobilization, dissemination, negotiation, and even rejection of national consciousness in urban communities. More specifically, it compares the activities of tourist promoters and private place-promotion associations in several Belgian and Dutch towns during the nineteenth century. I claim that tourism during the nineteenth-century in the Low Countries was, first and foremost, a local activity: organized by, and to a certain extent also for, locals. Through guidebooks, posters, festivities and restoration activities tourism promotors promoted the particular identity of their own towns.
Towards the end of the century, tourism became a tool for nationalist identity politics, which resulted, among other things, in the creation of nationalist touring clubs all across Europe. Local participants in the tourist industry selectively appropriated these national identities for their own purposes. Some of them metonymically represented provincial towns as important sights of national beauty and history, but others rather emphasized the exotic, foreign qualities of their towns to attract travellers from other parts of the country. Their evocation of local patrimony did not correspond to older, centralized notions of the nation-state. Rather, tourist promoters asserted local distinctiveness and advocated geographical diversity, and in some cases even outright rejected nationalism. This perspective challenges scholars to rethink the role of tourism in the construction of national awareness, as the result of a complex process of negotiation of various territorial – particularly local – identities. (Show less)
Andreas Stynen :
Opponents on the Same Grounds. Conflicting Tourist Organizations in Interwar Belgium
Interwar Belgium offers a fascinating case for an analysis of the relationship between nationalism and tourism at the level of intermediary associations. When peace returned in the war-torn country in 1918, the Touring Club de Belgique (TCB) was eager to continue its activities. Relying on the extensive membership assembled since ... (Show more)
Interwar Belgium offers a fascinating case for an analysis of the relationship between nationalism and tourism at the level of intermediary associations. When peace returned in the war-torn country in 1918, the Touring Club de Belgique (TCB) was eager to continue its activities. Relying on the extensive membership assembled since its foundation in 1895, the Club turned into an influential vehicle of national fervor: excursions, guidebooks and maps encouraged Belgians to honor their homeland by exploring its regions (especially the war zones and the German-speaking villages annexed after Versailles), whereas the widely distributed bulletin also appealed to the State to restore the greatness of damaged sites and landscapes. The Touring Club explicitly performed as the mouthpiece of the entire, unified Belgian nation. Its aspirations, however, were audaciously challenged from 1922 onwards, when the Flemish Tourist Association (Vlaamsche Toeristenbond, VTB) was founded. The Tourist Association adopted methods and strategies of its counterpart, but not without fine-tuning them. Though officially not politically involved, the ambition to teach Flemish people how to travel – and thus emancipating them – was an ideological one. While the TCB was backed by the government and as such a catalyst of state nationalism, the VTB was an exponent of a so-called sub-state or ethnic nationalism. My paper will question this clear-cut dichotomy, by focusing on differences as well as similarities in the ideas, strategies and practices of the two initiatives. At first the TCB could ignore the Flemish challenger, but this became increasingly difficult as the VTB saw a steady increase in membership throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Also, the organizations operated in the same field, appropriating the Belgian/Flemish countryside and cities both symbolically (in their tourist discourse and with activities such as excursions and walks) and materially (in erecting monuments, commemorative plates and signposts). At the same time, however, the notion of national indifference prompts to pay attention to the position of (local) agents, members and travelers: was the national bidding of TCB and VTB of relevance for them, or was the individual choice among the two organizations rather motivated by other factors? Magazine sections and meeting reports provide insight in the dynamic negotiations between board and basis. (Show less)
Kasper Swerts :
Comparative Analysis of the Vlaamse Toeristenbond (Flemish Tourist Association) and Irish Tourist Association during the Interwar Period
This essay compares the origins and development of tourist associations in Flanders and Ireland during the interwar period. In both regions, the First World War had played a key role in the development of nationalism, with the most obvious consequence being the founding of the Irish Free State in 1921. ... (Show more)
This essay compares the origins and development of tourist associations in Flanders and Ireland during the interwar period. In both regions, the First World War had played a key role in the development of nationalism, with the most obvious consequence being the founding of the Irish Free State in 1921. In the wake of the nationalist surge, tourism developed as well, with the founding of two major tourist associations – the Vlaamse Toeristenbond and the Irish Tourist Association – in the early 1920s. Traditionally, research has focused on how nationalism and national movements have influenced these groupings, and how conventional nationalist politics, from a top-down perspective, marked the development of tourism and tourist associations in the regions during this period.
This essay however takes a different approach and argues that these two tourist associations proved to be instrumental to the development of a meso-level civil society in both Flanders and Ireland, which subsequently marked nationalism in both regions. It analyses the social composition of the associations, and how they aligned or contrasted themselves with similar cultural associations. In addition, the essay focuses on the practices both associations used – i.e. discounts, gatherings, local initiatives and representatives – to develop the association as a meso-level social group.
By designating the tourist associations as functioning between the individual and the state, it becomes possible to shed new light on the intricate connection between nationalism and tourism. On the one hand, the associations proved to be an important locus for the articulation of state-sponsored initiatives. Instead of characterizing tourist associations as an extension of state policies on tourism, it will be argued that these associations were crucial agents in the articulation and development of these policies on a state level, and proved to be instrumental as a space that allowed for the discussion and contestation of tourist policies. On the other hand, the associations operated on a supra-individual level, and as such allowed for an amalgam of different national identities to flourish in the associations, and be contested and discussed within the social groups. By emphasising the plethora of different national identities that co-existed in these two tourist associations, the essay will be able to nuance the traditional perspective on the connection between tourism and nationalism, and highlight how these tourist associations, rather than extending one distinct national identity, induced the development of myriad national identities in their organisation. (Show less)
Gerrit Verhoeven :
Which Belgium do we sell? Flemish Nationalism and Discussions on Tourism Marketing in Parliament (1930-’80)
During the twentieth century, tourism marketing slowly but surely became an issue in parliamentary discussions, as politicians became aware of the economic potential of tourism in terms of tax revenues, employment and other gains. Moreover, MP’s gradually discovered other bonusses, as (smart) tourism branding could produce positive hetero- and auto-images, ... (Show more)
During the twentieth century, tourism marketing slowly but surely became an issue in parliamentary discussions, as politicians became aware of the economic potential of tourism in terms of tax revenues, employment and other gains. Moreover, MP’s gradually discovered other bonusses, as (smart) tourism branding could produce positive hetero- and auto-images, that were, not only, vital to attract moneyed, foreign tourists, but also strengthened national identities. During the last few decades, a host of experts from the Tourist Studies has tried to disentangle these links between nationalism and tourism marketing. However, a historical lens, that zeroes in on the topic in a diachronic way, remains largely missing. In this lecture, I will draw on the minutes of the parliamentary discussions in Belgium to provide fresh perspective. Belgium is an interesting case as the rivalling identities – local and national, but especially regional (Flemish & Walloon) led to diametrically opposed ideas about how the country should be sold to foreign and domestic tourists alike. Belgian MP’s were at variance on the regions and products (the Coast, the Ardennes, the Cities of Art,…) that should be branded as vaut-le-voyage, on the strategies to be used (media, target group, brands,...) or the institutions (national, regional or local TIO’s) involved. Sometimes these differing opinions ran parallel with the classic fault lines between the two linguistic communities, yet more often they ran straight across these communities and party lines. Drawing on the parliamentary minutes, this lecture zooms in on three issues. First of all, I aim to identify the “puppeteers” behind the scene and their motivations. Which political parties – or individual MP’s – were beating the nationalistic drum and why? What kind of tourist product – or which Belgium – did they evoke or brand? Last but not least, I will focus on the motives that were used to slate the traditional approach and institutions. (Show less)