Ethnography on the Go
Researching Tourism with Multi-Sited Interviews
by Michael Humbracht,
In studying tourism, more and more often ethnography is faced with the question of how to gain insight into cultural practices connected across many distances, spaces, and places. I recently encountered this question when carrying out an ethnographic research project in conjunction with the city of Malmö tourism bureau. The project researched visiting friends and relatives’ tourism by focusing on the visits of several Malmö residents, who were born abroad, and their visitors. In order to study the many elements of informant trips I decided to conduct multi-sited interviews.
Respondents were interviewed in Malmö, in a small town in central Sweden, and in northern Italy. Interviews in Malmö revealed insights into what happens during visits; such as how residents become instructors, teaching visitors facets of local life like using train tickets machines or cooking with local food. The interviews facilitated understandings of how visitors adapt by creating local identities with the help of residents. In addition, the strategy made possible tracing elements of visits to the local environments of family and friends. During the interview in northern Italy respondents guided me through their home showing me how they arrange items taken from various tourist trips around the world. As a part of that tour informants presented items bought with family members in Malmö and explained why these items, as well as others, had great importance. The strategy thus produced understandings by allowing visitors to interact with their local environment and point out how items from visits to Malmö become embedded in their local environment.
In short, contrasting findings from interviews at different sites enabled deeper analysis into how people build identities and make connections between places with tourism. As practitioners of ethnography attempt to find creative means for tracing culture across borders this project offers impetus for developing ethnographies on the go.
Michael Humbracht is a Cultural Analyst, graduated from the MACA Master’s program at the Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund University, living in southern Sweden. His current research focuses on the role mobility plays in everyday life.
For further information contact Michael Humbracht at:
mikewyo25 at gmail dot com.