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Southern Mountains and Mountain Societies in Global Tourism: Images and Practices

Call for papers. Deadlines: may 15th, 2016 (abstract) and october 15th, 2016 (articles). Guest editor: Isabelle Sacareau (Université Bordeaux Montaigne, PASSAGES, CNRS UMR 5319)


This is a call for papers for a thematic issue of the Journal of Alpine Research. The issue involves questions regarding southern mountains and mountain societies in global tourism. It focuses on the images and practices of these mountains for inhabitants as well as the tourists.

From the 18th century and on, the Alps and Pyrenees ranges have been the source of invention for a new connection to the mountains and the location where contemporary tourism practices are mostly based. In particular, in the 19th and 20th centuries, European colonization and the expansion of a tourism market swiftly led to ideas to build new destinations. This led to the integration of the high mountains of Latin America, Africa and Asia in international tourism.

The tourism practices taking places in the Andes, the Atlas, the high lands of Africa and in the Himalayas are, by and large quite similar to those in Europe and North America. Examples of those practices include: discovering and contemplating the landscape, breathing the « fresh air », experiencing the waters, walking, climbing or skiing. Likewise, certain recurrent characters stem from the ideas of mountain dwellers. And these high ranges carry a specific tourism practices connected to their geographical and cultural context. These practices also relate to the area’s history and its trajectory in tourism development.

Indeed, the altitude and sizes, the remoteness from most of the places tourists travel from, the often difficult accessibility, and last, the exotic nature of the vast ethnic and cultural diversity of these areas distinguish them from Western mountain ranges. Furthermore, the colonial context, in which Europeans discovered and explored these areas have fed other representations of these mountains and their inhabitants. Therefore, the ideas of terra incognita, boundaries to conquest, dissident to tame, “mountain-shelter” or “ethnic conservatory,” persist.

In a world, now mostly explored in a context of mass tourism, Southern high ranges are still seen by western tourists as heterotopia, exclusive territories where the access is to be “earned”. The image of mountain populations, presented as custodians of endangered ancestral cultures fall within a broader line of descent of colonial representations that those areas are exotic. The adventure or ethnic based tour operators draw particularly on these representations.

In contemporary periods, other images arose following the discovery of the “wilderness” in the United States of America. Presented as “hot-spots” of biodiversity and a climate change lab, numerous Southern mountain ranges have been classified as conservation areas. There, support is given to ecotourism, which aims to answer tourists’ demands for wild, preserved and “authentic” nature. Hence, tourism promotes exposure to Nature at a local scale and the global scales that draw from those local areas. All of these criteria set Southern mountains in a peculiar position within the international tourism system.

Finally, the globalization of tourism has led, since the eighties to the growth of tourists flowing to developing or emerging countries like China or India. Inhabited by ethnic minorities, mountains of those countries appear to be particularly exotic destinations for domestic tourists traveling from urban areas. Their images and the practices of the people in the mountains relates to their own mental framework and refers to diverse genealogy and pilgrimages, and or lettered person travels. It also values other landscapes (middle mountains with the forests and waterfalls, for example, rather the high covered snow peaks for Chinese tourists). Therefore, different cultural contexts of the Southern high mountains and the global circulation of images, values and practices need to be taken into account in addition to social differences between tourists.

The beliefs of mountain societies and their relationship to tourism must be considered. And, in particular, the way this relationship modifies their representations and practices must be considered. For example, European mountains have, for the most part, lost religious signification whereas Southern mountains, where some great pilgrimage sites are located, retain a sacred dimension. This dimension exists for the people who reside there as well as for tourists seeking spirituality. Ideals of locals living in mountain areas do not always match those of tourists whose practices can create tension and problems. However, tourists and locals' ideas can support each other: tourists absorb locals’ beliefs and contact with tourists can modify the relationship between local populations and their environment. Consequently, new uses of mountains emerge according to the degree that mountain populations are included in tourism and the globalization of tourism.

Potential topics for papers

The contributions expected can be organized between three great areas:

Role of images in tourism in the Southern mountains

  • What are the images attached to Southern mountains? On what grounds and arguments are tourists’ images of these mountain built?

  • Can we alter this image? Particularly, the images created by the great explorations of the 19th century and colonization? How are these images being expressed today in contemporary tourist practices?

  • Does the cultural background of tourists bring about diverse images of the mountains for tourists? Do they create differences in the tourist activities at the mountains?

Tourists’ images and local practices

  • Where do mountain populations stand in the building tourist’ images of Southern mountains?

  • Do local populations accept the images projected on them? How do these images interfere with local practices?

  • Do these images modify the traditional use of the mountain? How so? What is the effect on the territory?

  • What images and practices of tourists are drawn by local societies from their interaction with tourists?

Place of mountain society in localized tourist system

  • Do mountain populations passively accept the images projected on them or is the tourist system set up with actors?

  • Or, on the contrary, do mountain populations actively seek s to embody and take advantage of the system of tourism so that they can blend in with global tourism?

  • Is there a way to ensure, defend, or renew the collective identities and their place among their own country?


Proposal abstracts (around 600 words) are to be sent in French (if French-speaking author) OR in English (authors of other languages) before May 15th 2016 to (Université Bordeaux Montaigne, PASSAGES, CNRS UMR 5319), Olivier Vallade, and Dominique Baud (Université Grenoble Alpes, PACTE, CNRS UMR5194),

Final articles are due for October 15th 2016. Final articles can be submitted in English, French, Italian, German or Spanish. They have to be in two versions and one version has to be in English. The author(s) must arrange for translation into english, once the article has been accepted for publication.

Publication date is planned for late 2017.