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Freedom, power and control: Contradictions and paradoxes in the new entanglements of international tourism

(June 15-July 1, 2023, Melbourne, Australia)

The notion of freedom to travel is always contingent and contradictory in tourism. As the world grapples with the frightening realities of a war of aggression once again in Europe, having seemingly turned the tide on the worst effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the power dynamics in the political economy of international travel, tourism and mobilities have been thrown into stark relief. The pandemic affected all aspects of our life, the war in Ukraine threatens to reshape the global order. Individual liberty that has been taken for granted is restricted, as people are prevented from traveling, or they need special permission, have to wear a mask and have to be vaccinated. For millions of others, a need to flee a war of choice being waged in one’s home country to seek refuge, to be accepted into another country is a life-saving necessity. As the world emerges into a “new” entanglements and disentanglements in the ways borders are policed, and what is possible in international travel and tourism, paradoxes and contradictions continue to surface.

Some themes of this panel include:


Top-down interventions and individual freedom: State interventions could be viewed either as having assisted or hindered economies and industries, including tourism, during the pandemic. This raised many questions, such as the role of the state in the market and also in the lives of individuals, including their freedom to move, work and consume. To what extent does state intervention protect and/or limit individual freedoms? To what extent has the pandemic highlighted and exacerbated differences in national attitudes towards state intervention, as these differences played out in the arena of international tourism?


Contemporary sociology of tourism in the post-truth era: The post-truth era could be characterized by its uncertainty, risk, populism, authoritarianism, dwindling trust in truth and rationalism. Nowhere is this more stark than in how the Russian Government has sought to control the media representation of events in Ukraine to Russians, and that in the US, media outlets still present the 2020 presidential elections as stolen from Donald Trump. Sociologists of tourism have successfully deployed diverse theoretical perspectives to address issues such as risk, terrorism, climate change, social media, Covid-19 pandemic, racism, subcultures, gender and sexuality, geopolitics, right-wing isolationism, and ethics. What are the sources of control and power in post-truth era contemporary entanglements in international tourism?


New normal, same old problems: A “new normal” tourism is emerging. But paradoxically, old structures and institutions remain, as industry and tourists aim to go back to old ways. What is preventing us from fashioning a new normal that addresses climate change, inequality and injustices, and bringing about more responsible and sustainable tourism practices, behavior and values?


Good causes, bad consequences: There appears to be an increasing intensity and polemicism of the rhetoric from both left and right, as well as the use of similar tactics, such as shaming, cancel culture etc. causing consideration of the extent of freedoms and authoritarianism. The laudable goal of the flight-shame movement was largely achieved during the lockdown of the travel market. Yet, actions yield social, political, economic and psychological consequences. Social activists aim to bring about a better world but their solutions can paradoxically bring unintended outcomes, particularly in destination regions.

Past Meetings

2020 (Chiang Mai, Thailand) [Cancelled]

2018 (Toronto, Canada): XIX ISA World Congress

2016 (Chiang Mai, Thailand): RC50 In-between Seminar

2014 (Yokohama, Japan): XVIII ISA World Congress

2011 (Shangri-La, Yunan, China): RC50 In-between Seminar

2010 (Goteborg, Sweden): XVII ISA World Congress

2008 (Jaipur, India): RC50 In-between Seminar

2006 (Durban, South Africa): XVI ISA World Congress

2005 (Wageningen, Netherlands): RC50 In-between Seminar

2002 (Brisbane, Australia): XV ISA World Congress

1998 (Montreal, Canada): XIV ISA World Congress

1994 (Bielefeld, Germany): XIII ISA World Congress

1990 (Madrid, Spain): XII ISA World Congress

Upcoming Meetings

©RC50 & ISA 2023

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