Wednesday, October 14, 2020

  • Wednesday, October 14, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon

After reading the title and abstract of this article in Social and Cultural Geography, you have no more idea of what it is about than before:

Touring and obscuring: how sensual, embodied and haptic gay touristic practices construct the geopolitics of pinkwashing

Gay tourism is commonly studied through pride events in cities. Rethinking the role gay men’s bodies and politics play in the context of tourism to Israeli heritage sites, this paper contributes to debates on geopolitics and geographies of sexualities and the embodied approach to tourism. Analyzing daytrips through the Occupied Palestinian Territories, I argue that sensual, embodied and haptic practices, which are immanent to gay men’s travel cultures, play into a pinkwashing geopolitics in this specific circumstance. Thus, this paper conceptualizes pinkwashing mechanisms operation through heritage tourist sites just as much as they are produced via the presentation of Tel Aviv as a modern space of acceptance of LGBT sexualities, albeit obviously in different ways. Moreover, tourists’ notions of place and non-place construct how (urban) space is produced as meaningful while other (heritage) space is marginalized. Methodologically, I present a reflexive embodied ethnography, which relies on my researcher’s reflexivity to produce an analysis through a story.
The actual article is about the experience of the author, Gilly Hartal, of the Gender Studies Program, Bar-Ilan University, a lesbian who joined a day trip of gay males to Masada and the Dead Sea during Tel Aviv Pride Week a few years ago.

Based on this single trip, Hartal makes some sweeping conclusions about gay male tourism in Israel - for example, that gays are more interested in photographing themselves, hooking up, dancing and drugs than in learning about the sites they are visiting. If a straight male would make this observation he would be called a homophobe, but apparently a lesbian can say this in an academic paper.

Hartal is also upset at the group because, as a lesbian in an all male gay group, she is invisible. The encourage one of the reticent males to jump into the Dead Sea but none of them ask her to join them. 

Part of her conclusion based on a sample size of one trip during which she was pissed off:

In this article, I have shown that looking closely at the negotiation of Israel/Palestinian politics in juxtaposition with gay men tourist bodies outside Tel Aviv’s urban space reveals the centrality of the body in gay tourist culture. Gay tourism literature has tended to limit the centrality of sensations and bodies to urban settings or to gay tourist sites. Obviously, bodies play a major role in gay tourism, within which identities and subjectivities are produced (Waitt & Markwell, 2006). The present analysis, however, questions the sharp distinction between ‘gay’ and ‘non-gay’ tourism spaces and shows that gay tourist bodies play a major role even outside commonly discussed gay urban spaces such as pride parades and parties (Johnston, 2005; Waitt & Markwell, 2006). The day tour described above reveals an epistemology of gay tourism that is beyond the destination itself, produced by the tour organizers and most importantly by the participants as a tool for igniting sensations, for enriching haptic experiences. 
This paper conceptualizes pinkwashing mechanisms operation through heritage tourist sites just as much as they are produced via the presentation of Tel Aviv as a modern space of acceptance of LGBT sexualities, albeit obviously in different ways. This is formed through the well-proven practices of promoting Israel as a liberal and modern state – a gay dream come true – combined with the envisioning (but not actual experiencing) of Palestine as a homophobic nightmare way beyond the wall. Another twist is added with less expected practices such as visualizing Jewish settlements and the occupation as a rational practice available even to a non-heteronormative logic.
If you think that an entire supposedly scholarly paper based on a single day trip with gay men is irresponsible social science, check out this other paper where the writer describes her renting an AirBnB in Tel Aviv and makes more sweeping conclusions based on her experience. 

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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