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Tourism and "The Third Ear": Further Prospects for Qualitative Inquiry

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Abstract:

This commentary on the state of the art of qualitative research in Tourism Studies is prompted and inspired by the recent appearance of Phillimore and Goodson's valuable coverage of the ontological and epistemological issues involved in the conduct of the enlarging body of qualitative research that has lately emerged in the field. It also stands as a follow-up article to the work of Jamal and Hollinshead in Tourism Management on similar matters. Like the latter, that is, that timely "Qualitative Research as a Forbidden Zone" article, this Tourism Analysis review article is premised upon the view that just as travel and tourism mirror so much of the social, communal, and political realities of the cultural world "out there," so research in Tourism Studies can mirror and much more advantageously utilize so many of the emergent phenomenological and ethnographic advances in research praxis that have followed in the wake of the so-called interpretive turn and the so-called literary turn of the human sciences. In viewing travel and tourism as critical and dynamic fields of seeing, being, experiencing, inventing, and knowing of and about the world, this review article positions travel and tourism as an inherently endlessly creative and mediating field of lived experience that, therefore, should be much more deeply explored interpretively, and thereby "qualitatively," in the light of the new insights that qualitative researchers have lately gained across human science disciplines into matters of meaning, textuality, and rhetorical power. Although The Forbidden Zone of Jamal and Hollinshead (in Tourism Management) explored the relevance of matters of "messy text," "confirmability," "engaged interestedness," and "locality" for Tourism Studies, this follow-up article here in Tourism Analysis peruses related questions of "text," "voice," "reflexivity," and "audience." It broadly concludes that—after Wichroski (1997)—the inexperienced qualitative researcher in travel/tourism/any domain can normally improve his or her sensibilities to the interpretive issues faced and to the contextual situation encountered by learning how to deploy "a third ear" to actively sense the involved difficult matters of "tacit" individual presence, "unstated" communal existence, and "undeclared" researcher power and authority in both the research locales and the investigative processes he/she is engaged in. Although this follow-up (Third Ear) article posits many strengths in the use of qualitative research in Tourism Studies—particularly in tapping the misty plurivocality of populations and the exacting, contested narratives about places and pasts—the endeavor to understand the different styles of interpretive/ethnographic/textual insight that course through various qualitative techniques is no soft option in research, and demands considerable sensitivity to the unfixities of meaning, affiliation, and identity. Overall then, as did Phillimore and Goodson, this Third Ear review article seeks to shift the debate about the merit and value of qualitative research beyond concerns of "technique" and away from the strictures of "method," per se, towards the need for the collective field of Tourism Studies to encourage more of its researchers towards flexible, interpretive approaches that demand enhanced situational use of their human intuitive and creative capacities themselves as a perceptual, diagnostic, and inferential resource. Thereby, the article calls for a more reasoned use of these sorts of creatively informed human capacities where they can be utilized sensitively in critical-vigorous fashion to gauge the held local/situational realities of and about the world, and with critical-rigor over the care in which those found understandings are reflexively captured and crosschecked. But the authors of this review article recognize that the new/emergent intersubjectivities and the new/unfolding moral discourse of qualitative inquiry are still rupturing, still messy, and (for many researchers) still a rather dark matter. As the field of Tourism Studies continues into the 21st century, there are so many new options and opportunities in the engagement with the ever-expanding portfolio of qualitative research approaches—but there is still so much to learn in situ about how each one of them may be sensibly and appropriately deployed in each of those specific research locales.

Keywords: BRICOLAGE/BRICOLEUR; GOODNESS CRITERIA; INTERPRETIVE TURN; METHODOLATRY; QUALITATIVE RESEARCH/QUALITANIA; SELF/OTHER; TEXTUALITY; TOURISM/TRAVEL

Document Type: Review Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3727/108354207780956735

Publication date: April 1, 2007

More about this publication?
  • The aim of Tourism Analysis is to promote a forum for practitioners and academicians in the fields of Leisure, Recreation, Tourism, and Hospitality (LRTH). As a interdisciplinary journal, it is an appropriate outlet for articles, research notes, and computer software packages designed to be of interest, concern, and of applied value to its audience of professionals, scholars, and students of LRTH programs the world over.
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