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Corrupted Seas: the Mediterranean in the Age of Mass Mobility

Obrador, P.; Crang, M.; Travlou, P.


P. Obrador

P. Travlou


P. Obrador

P. Travlou


As we noted in the introduction we have chosen to produce a book about Mediterranean mass tourism. Not just mass tourism that happens to take place in the Mediterranean, but the Mediterranean variety and inflection of mass tourism. With this choice we wanted to emphasize the fact that (even) mass tourism has histories and geographies. Moreover, the space of tourism has often been methodologically fragmented and marginalized as a side effect of two trends in research. First, research on tourism practices (as in many chapters in this volume) has often proceeded empirically through case studies of single destinations. Partly, this may be down to the logistics and funding of research, partly the difficulties of comparative work. Second, the space of tourism has been marginal both in academia conceptually but also on the ground – where resorts are often at the end of the line, and the edge of territories. Thus recent assessments on regeneration and decline in British resorts point to transport and communication links leaving them marginalized (Communities and Local Government Committee 2007), while for many traditions of area studies tourism areas are equally on the edge of the territory and the fading edge of the culture. This scale and focus is a variant of a methodological nationalism that is by no means confined to work on tourism. Indeed, in historiography it has often seemed that history only occurs at the scale of the nation state (Bentley 1999). However, we also want to outline some cautions on the imagining of the Mediterranean. The anthropology of Mediterranean studies has all to often given a homogeneity to the region, indeed we might say defined the region through key attributes such as cultures of ‘honour’ and ‘shame’ (Albera 2006) and notions of cultural survivalism, where the antique survives into modernity (Mitchell 2002). Critics have argued with some force and justification that while Braudel and others have argued for the Mediterranean as ‘an ecological unit’, anthropology has seen it as a culture area characterized by the presence of codes of honour and shame in gender relations of a hierarchical nature and in so doing end up opposing the primitivism of the Mediterranean with the modernity of Europe (see examples in Albera 2006: 116). As such a regionalist anthropology has colluded with a literary trope that portrays the Mediterranean through a limited range of generally cultural stereotypes of its people (Shore 1995) and a geohistoire has spoken to a region grounded in climate and agriculture – which themselves ascribe a different temporality to the region. Indeed geography has long learnt to be wary of models of cultural areas that all too often suppress heterogeneity, internal conflicts between subcultures and tend to be founded on models of rustic society (Crang 1998: 21). Where tourism is addressed at all it is as a problem, for people, places and research, not as one of the engines forging a Mediterranean regional identity. So we begin by asking what it is that a Mediterranean focus offers, first in terms of destabilising the usual categories of nation and place by focusing upon a maritime imaginary like Homer’s wine dark sea, second by looking at the analytic risks and commercial uses of fixing and exoticising the Mediterranean, and then, third, asking how mass tourism is refracted through Mediterranean practices and imaginations and the diversity of outcomes now emerging creating many Mediterraneans and many mass tourisms.


Obrador, P., Crang, M., & Travlou, P. (2009). Corrupted Seas: the Mediterranean in the Age of Mass Mobility. In P. Obrador, M. Crang, & P. Travlou (Eds.), Cultures of mass tourism : doing the Mediterranean in the age of banal mobilities (157-174). Ashgate Publishing

Publication Date Sep 1, 2009
Deposit Date Sep 1, 2009
Pages 157-174
Series Title New directions in tourism analysis
Book Title Cultures of mass tourism : doing the Mediterranean in the age of banal mobilities.
Chapter Number 9
Keywords Mediterranean, Braudel, Tourism, Culture, Mass consumption.
Publisher URL