Tourist From Here: Performance of Tourism, Home and Everyday in Singapore

Abstract: In the context of multi-level mobilities, the notion of ‘home’ as a fixed frame for identity is challenged; there seems to be many homes, no homes and new homes that are constantly being created.

With these fluidities in mind, this thesis re-examines concepts of belonging and identity, and questions the ways in which the performance of self, along with associated materialities, practices and representations are being reproduced in ways that inform tourism and the being of a tourist. By exploring how tourism is performed in the everyday, questions of home and identity emerge relating to who is a tourist and what is tourism. Rather than looking at traditional of what constitutes tourists or tourism, this research explores these notions using their relations with the ‘local’ and how the local performs tourism. This reveals other more complex questions such as ‘when is a tourist a local’ and ‘when is a local a tourist?’ The reconstructions of what makes the ‘local’ and the ‘tourist’ make the case in which tourism is seemingly integrated with home and reflected in everyday practices. The core of the thesis explores the complex relationships between tourism processes and the reproduction of identities through the performance of home and everyday practices in multi-layered Singapore.

The aim is to understand how tourism is performed and framed within the everyday in which paradoxes and contradictions become increasingly inherent in a globalised world. The symbolic categories in which tourism is performed become more than representations, rather, they are preformed and transformed through tourist practices. Ultimately, embodied practices are performed on an everyday basis whereby the researcher, the tourist and the local are all doing tourism at the same time. By re-evaluating tourists, tourist places, tourist practices and their concomitant relationships, this research seeks to understand the dynamics that reproduce different spaces of performances and how they relate to the acquisition of identity. Hence, performance is explored in terms of being ‘away at home’ by premising home mobilities and immobilities, as well as, the adaptability of self in various spatial contexts and practice. In this study, the self is situated as mobile agent within emergent flows of place, encounter and meaning, where personal identification factors into how identities are negotiated. Hence, it undertakes the challenge of exploring the blurring of the tourist-local-researcher divide, incorporating self-reflexivities and emergent meanings as new spaces are being reproduced.

The qualitative element of this research frames such spaces of performances by supporting a bricolage research methodology that investigates various interactive and embodied spaces. Performances are also reviewed in the light of visualities and their related practices such as embodied material culture. As such, notions of subjectivities and reflexivities surface especially with a reverse gaze in which the subject and object, local and tourist, nation building and tourism are confused. This thesis contextualises the sovereign city-state of Singapore and investigates through cultural discourse and practice, how Singaporeans engage tourist spaces as performed spaces in the formulation of a national identity. The field research that informs this paper is about the reproduction of cultural encounters through the reflexive lenses of the researcher, tourist and the local as it considers how ‘home’ is performed through national discourses to ‘Rediscover Singapore’. It incorporates various elements of photography in an effort to frame the self as both subject and object, to reveal how tourist practice is assimilated in the everyday and how this contributes to the reiteration of identity in Singapore.

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  • Before I became a film major, I was very heavily into social science, I had done a lot of sociology, anthropology, and I was playing in what I call social psychology, which is sort of an offshoot of anthropology/sociology – looking at a culture as a living organism, why it does what it does.

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