Understanding the Indiscipline of Tourism: A Radical Critique to the Current State of Epistemology

Understanding the Indiscipline of Tourism: A Radical Critique to the Current State of Epistemology

Maximiliano E. Korstanje (University of Palermo, Argentina & University of Leeds, UK), Lourdes Cisneros Mustelier (University of La Habana, Cuba) and Sylvia Herrera (University of Especialidades Turisticas, Ecuador)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0201-2.ch012
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Over last years, the current growth of tourism flourished in a wealth of courses, Ph.Ds., Masters and academic offerings that positioned tourism as a good perspective for students. Jafar Jafari signaled to the term “scientifization of tourism” to explain the ever-increasing attention given to this new field (Jafari & Aeser, 1988; Jafari, 1990, 2005). At a first stage, the great volume of bibliographic production offered an encouraging prospect in the pathways towards the maturation of this discipline. However, some epistemologists have recently alerted that not only tourism-research failed to develop a unified consensus of what tourism is, but also lack of a coherent epistemology that helps organizing the produced material. In this respect, tourism is subject now to an atmosphere of “indiscipline” where the produced knowledge leads to scattered (limited) conclusions.
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Over last years, the growth of tourism studies has been duplicated and crystalized in Ph. Doctorates, Master degrees, books, journals and academic courses (Leiper, 1981; Jafari, 1990; Sheldon 1991; Hall, Howey et al 1999; Williams & Lew 2004). As Jafar Jafari put it, the scientifization of tourism was based on the increasing attention given by scholars to tourism as their primary object of study (Jafari & Aeser, 1988; Jafari, 1990; 2005). Though this volume of prolific production accelerated the disciplinary maturation of tourism, some epistemologists have alerted that applied research failed to reach a unified consensus (epistemology) about what tourism means, but the production evolved on a fragmentary platform which was dubbed by John Tribe as “the indiscipline of tourism”. (Tribe 1997; 2005; 2010; Korstanje & Thirkettle, 2013; Korstanje & Skoll 2014; Escalona & Thirkettle, 2011). In this context, the present chapter is aimed at discussing critically the main opportunities and limitations that epistemology faces today in tourism fields, as well as the problems quantitative-oriented paradigms show. For some reasons, which remains obscure, researchers are prone to employ quantitative over qualitative instruments (Walle 1997; Decrop 1999). Though this chapter does not represent an attack to any scholar or position, no less true is that the current state of the art is experiencing an epistemological fragmentation which prevents a clear diagnosis of what tourism is. A fragmentation of this caliber leads to serious difficulties in order for the discipline to be seriously taken as a maturated academic option. The aims of this text are twofold; on one hand we debate on the needs of achieving a scientific definition of tourism. On another, we depart towards a theory that triggers a review of John Tribe´s contributions to the epistemology of tourism. The first section explores preliminary the problem of transdisciplinarity and the intervention of different social sciences to take tourism as the main object of their approaches but leaving behind a shared definition. As a second option, an in-depth insight is done over the prone of fieldworkers to opt for quantitative research, ignoring the benefits other types of instruments offer. In this vein, it is important to review the criticism posed by John Tribe respecting not only to the “indiscipline of tourism”, but the pervasive role played by Academy in allowing a conceptual chaos in the produced bibliography. However, Tribe´s diagnosis does not present the reasons why the bibliographic production is scattered. To fulfill this gap, an alternative explanation on the indiscipline of tourism is given in fourth section.

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