Nazariadli, Shahab (2018). An urbannormative and Orientalist critique of the representational bias in rural tourism. Doctoral dissertation (Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management), North Carolina State University.
Abstract: Developing tourism microentrepreneurship is often considered a key strategy for enabling economic rejuvenation of rural communities. However, tourism representations are reportedly characterized by Orientalist and Urbannormative biases, stereotyping the subordination of the Rural Other by superior Urban Centers. The representation of rural populations has long been problematized because those who write people’s histories end up influencing their futures. In the context of rural tourism, microentrepreneurs’ success has been linked to their control over how local histories and identities are represented to visitors. Additionally, the unscripted spaces created by tourism microentrepreneurship have been reported to afford opportunities for self representation and improved livelihoods. Therefore, the purpose of this dissertation is to examine the self-representations of rural tourism microentrepreneurs in contrast with the images urbanite tourists have of them.
Namely, first, I engaged with a group of rural tourism microentrepreneurs in an autophotography activity to examine the ways they wish to represent themselves to visitors. The findings suggested that rural tourism microentrepreneurs resist and comply with Urbannormative biases in an attempt to both speak against urban hegemonic forces and appeal to the perceived desires of tourists. Second, I developed and validated an online visual research tool, named “VQMethod,” designed to enable the online administration of Q methodology. Next, I employed this tool to examine the dissonance between the self-representations of rural tourism microentrepreneurs in the North Carolina piedmont region with the images potential urban tourists have of them. The findings revealed that participants held the following mental models: quaint and idyllic places; places for small-scale healthy food production; sacrificed places to produce food; and primitive places devoted to food production. Cumulatively, this dissertation stands to provide novel insights into the politics of rural tourism destination image-making, and to enable rural communities to harness the economic force of tourism.
Shahab Nazariadli <email@example.com> is interested in rural-urban tourism, tourism representation, architecture and tourism, participatory action research, and novel visual research methods. He is the creator of the visual Q method (VQMethod) online research tool (www.vqmethod.com).