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Global travel cultures and mobilities

Global travel cultures and mobilities

Type of group

Reading/seminar group

Area focus

Transregional research group


Christian Noack


Alex Drace-Francis
Rutger Helmers
Christian Noack
Henk van der Liet
Yolanda Rodríguez Pérez
Astrid Surmatz
Annelou Ypeij

External partners

Dr Sune Bachmann Petersen (Lund University); Prof. Peter Borsay (University of Aberystwyth); Prof. Wendy Bracewell (University College London); Dr Dina Fainberg (City University London); Prof. Charles Forsdick (University of Liverpool); Prof. Jan-Hein Furneé (Radboud University); Dr. Anna P.H. Geurts (University of Sheffield); Prof. Anne Gorsuch, University of British Columbia (Canada); Dr. Astrid Koehler (Queen Mary London): Prof. Diane Koenker, University of Illinois (USA); Prof. Wiebke Kolbe (Lund University); Dr Henrike Schmidt (Freie Universität Berlin); Dr Hasso Spode (Freie Universität Berlin); Dr. Bernhard Struck (University of St. Andrews); Dr Nataša Uroševa (Univerity of Pula); Prof. Tim Youngs (Nottingham Trent University); Dr Eric G.E. Zuelov (University of New England)

Links within ARTES

EAST and Cosmopolitan Confluences

Research programme

We are interested in the many possible links between travel, tourism and culture(s) as they have developed historically over the past centuries. Travel is understood as ‘culturalised movement’, a spatial practice articulated in such a way as to produce and reify cultural differences and boundaries between the known and the unknown. Tourism embodies in many respects Western mobility and modernity. This interdisciplinary research group critically examines the multiple relationships, tensions and conflicts between travellers and locals both in practice and in their representations.

From this historical perspective, we are engaging with a range of theoretical approaches developed in cognate disciplines like cultural anthropology, social psychology, geography, literary studies and visual analysis. The ‘European travel cultures’ research group provides a forum to debate the many layers of identity and difference encountered by travellers and tourists in their local, regional, national or translational encounters.

Focal points are

  • The historical development of travel and tourism and its social diffusion across European societies in East and West;
  • The discovery, description, valorisation and commodification of landscapes and places by travellers and tourists;
  • The relationship of travel to writing and cultural knowledge;
  • Visual and textual representations of sites and their perception by travellers and tourists;
  • Tourism as commodification of experience, linked to questions of authenticity, rite and pilgrimage;
  • Encounters, exchanges and the possible cultural and social conflicts linked with them;
  • The relevance of all the above for the (trans)formation of national, European and other collective identities across the continent.

Current projects comprise

  • A ‘Travel Cultures’ seminar series, in collaboration with other research seminars at the Faculty of Humanities. In the academic year 2013-14 speakers were, among others, Dr Kevin James (University of Guelph, Canada) and Dr Michael Zinganel (Vienna).
  • A series of workshops. An internal workshop was conducted in December 2013; an international workshop on “Travel Writing and Media Representations of Foreign Spaces and Cultures in post WWII Europe” is planned for December 2014.
  • Current research and publication projects of group members comprise a book project on the history of domestic tourism in the late Soviet period (Noack);  a research project on “The Black Legend and the Spanish Identity in Golden Age Spanish Theater, 1580-1665” funded by NWO- Internationalisering Geesteswetenschappen 2012 GW (Rodríguez Pérez)

Achievements 2014-2017

  • The ‘Travel Cultures’ seminar series, in collaboration with other research seminars at the Faculty of Humanities. Thirteen guest speakers from across Europe and North America have presented their current research projects in Amsterdam between 2014 and 2017.
  • Members have also presented their research at international conferences. Drace-Francis was keynote speaker at the ‘Europe and the Black Sea Region’ conference, University of Graz, September 2017, and has given talks by invitation at University College London (SSSES South-East Europe seminar, Jan 2017), Humboldt University Berlin (Early Modern History Seminar, May 2017), University of Wales (Borders and Crossings Conference, Aberystwyth, July 2017), New Europe College, Bucharest (International workshop People, Objects and Languages across the Empires, June 2018)
  • A Study day on ‘Russia and the Musical World: Nineteenth-Century Networks of Exchange’ in London, on 16 December 2016, co-organized by Rutger Helmers, with Tamsin Alexander (Goldsmiths University, London).
  • The group hosted a visiting fellow, Sune Bechmann Pedersen from Lund University in 2016. At ARTES, he joined Travel Cultures research group to study the history of Scandinavian tourism to Communist Europe during the Cold War.
  • A series of international workshops dedicated to travel across the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. A First workshop, “Close Encounters: East and West in Cold War Interactions & Imagination” was held at the University of Amsterdam March 20-21, 2015. Two workshops jointly organised with colleagues from Sweden followed, “Crossing the Iron Curtain. Tourism and Travelling in the Cold War” (7-8 April 2017 in Amsterdam) and “Mobility and Leisure Travel in Cold War” (7-8 December in Gothenburg). The conference hosts Christian Noack and Sune Bechmann Petersen jointly edit a collective volume with the title “Tourism and Travel during the Cold War. Negotiating Tourist Experiences across the Iron Curtain”, to be published with Routledge in 2019. 
  • The research group coordinator is leading applicant for a HERA 2018 application “The European Spa as a Spa as a Transnational Public Space and Social Metaphor” (under review).

Aims 2018-2021

Current research and publication projects of group members comprise a book project on the history of domestic tourism in the late Soviet period (Noack); Contributions to the Oxford Handbook on Travel and Tourism History (Noack);  a book project on musicians’ travels in the nineteenth century (Helmers).

Recent output

  • A. Drace-Francis, “Travel writing from eastern Europe,” in The Cambridge History of Travel Writing, ed. Nandini Das and Wendy Bracewell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2018).
  • R. Helmers, "The Travelling Musician as Cosmopolitan: Western Performers and Composers in Mid-Nineteenth-Century St Petersburg and Moscow," in Confronting the National in the Musical Past, eds. Elaine Kelly, et al. (New York: Routledge, 2018), 64-77.
  • T. Alexander & R. Helmers, Introduction to "Russia and the Musical World", special issue of Nineteenth-Century Music Review (under review).
  • R. Helmers, "Navigating the Local Elites: Travelling Musicians and their Encounters with the Russian Court and Aristocracy in the Mid-Nineteenth Century", "Russia and the Musical World", special issue of Nineteenth-Century Music Review (under review).
  • C. Noack, “Brezhnev’s ‘Little Freedoms’: Tourism, Individuality, and Mobility in the Late Soviet Period,” in Reconsidering Stagnation in the Brezhnev Era: Ideology and Exchange, eds. Dina Fainberg and Artemy Kalinovsky (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016), 59-76.
  • C. Noack, “The ‘Magnitostroi of Health’. Sochi and the Transformation of the Soviet Black Sea Cost as Model for Regional Development in the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation.” Zeitschrift für Tourismuswissenschaft 9 (2017): 61-82.
  • C. Noack, “Sports, pastimes: Russian.” in Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe. ed. Joep Leersen (Amsterdam: Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms, 2015 (electronic version)).
  • A. Ypeij,  “Tour guides tracking along gender and ethnic boundaries – New Social Inequalities in Peruvian Tourism”, paper presented at European Association of Social Anthropologist, Tallinn, 2014  July 31- August 3. 
  • A. Ypeij, “Weaving at the Crossroads of Gender and Ethnicity. Or can the collective entrepreneurship of  women working  in the tourism industry of Peru be interpreted as feminist solidarity?,” In Un économie solidaire peut-elle être feministe? Homo economicus, mulier solidaria, eds. Christine Verschuur, et al. (Paris:  L'Harmattan, 2015), 191-204.

Valorization activities

  • Drace-Francis participated in a public outreach event with the Romanian Cultural Centre, London (June 29 2018). This event showcased recent research on European and Romanian travel writing in collaboration with professional travel writers, cultural historians and diplomats, and attracted a substantial audience.
  • Drace-Francis teaches the MA course ‘Envisioning East and West’ on the European Studies programme at UvA. This course attracts a large number of students and has led to dissertations on themes of travel writing, some of them shortlisted for the department’s MA thesis prize.