Tourism and the dynamics of transnational mnemonic encounters

2019-03-05T09:47:37Z (GMT) by Alena Pfoser Emily Keightley
The turn towards transnational memory has largely focused on particular sites and modes of remembering, focusing on the creation of memories between and beyond nation-states in institutional politics, the media, migration and to a lesser degree social movements. Despite its significance for encountering other people’s past, international tourism remains under-examined in the scholarship due to a focus on macro-developments, a polarisation along a binary of cosmopolitan vs conflictive memories and a discounting of memories shaped by commercialised logics. Drawing on a case study of Russian tourism in Tallinn, Estonia, this paper makes the case for a closer examination of tourist encounters as part of research on transnational memory. It examines how tourism works as an arena for the production and circulation of memories through direct transnational encounters, refracting and modifying macro-political memories within a commercialised service environment. We analyse the role of tour guides as mnemonic intermediaries and show how in their work with Russian tourists they navigate pasts that form the subject of on-going memory conflicts at the level of international politics. Their representational strategies deemphasise contested pasts and avoid conflicts through neutrality and compromise. At the same time tourist encounters can also be used to create spaces for dialogue and the formation of positive relations. Overall the article demonstrates both the productivity and frictions of tourist settings for transnational remembering and makes the case for considering more ambiguous cases in transnational memory research.