Tourism has become one of the most common strategies for economic development in many poor countries. Moreover, tourism has become a force of globalization not only
contributing to the mobilization of people and economic development but also to the spreading of values, information, knowledge and perceptions. While tourism is considered to be one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, nature-based tourism and eco-tourism are claimed to be one of the fastest-growing niches within tourism. At the same time, there is a move of tourism flows away from the traditional tourist destinations towards new and “unexplored” destinations. One of these destinations is the formerSoviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, located in Central Asia.
This research project asks the question:
“How does nature-based tourism contribute to changed perceptions and relations to nature in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan?” To explore this question, I look at the practices related to nature by humans, but also how nature and the non-human agency of nature
affect and relate to humans; that is, how the materiality of nature is able to change human practices. I look at some very concrete material objects, namely the snow/coal, the horse and the mountain.
Based on my empirical material and interpretations of this, I have found that perceptions and relations to nature
do partly change when tourism starts to develop. However, perhaps more than
changing perceptions and relations to the nature, nature-based tourism contributes to
adding new perceptions and relations to nature, through new ways of enactment in the world. Nature-based tourism thus becomes a way for human and non-human actors to come into the world or “being in the world” both through new practices and new knowledge.
These new ontologies do not necessarily replace each other, or exist separately from one another; they may actually co-exist, reinforce and evolve within one another, while others are in conflict.
Anne Gry Sturød er en kandidat i ph.d.-programmet i kulturstudier, og er ansatt som universitetetslektor ved USN Handelshøyskolen, Institutt for økonomi og IT.