Tourist Spaces as Heterotopias. Touristification and the Generation of Identity as Inter-connected Logics of Action

Activity: Talk or presentationConference PresentationsResearch

Anja Saretzki - Speaker

According to Lefebvre tourist spaces cannot only be thought of as products but must also be considered mediums of social action. Lefebvre conceptualized the triad of spatial practices, representations of space and spaces of representation to grasp the dialectic of production and reproduction of social space. All levels of space correspond to each other and understanding the complexity of social space means to consider these interdependencies. This is also valid for tourist spaces. They do not only change their faces because of tourist use, but the influence of “other” readings leads to local reinterpretations.
The Palmeral of Elx, a landscape of groves of date palms from the 9th century that was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2000, should serve as an example to demonstrate these connections. As a part of the world cultural heritage and as a tourist sight it can be understand as a heterotopia. Lefebvre talks about heterotopias as “ambiguous spaces”. They are “other spaces” and “spaces of the other” that is excluded and included at the same time. The ambivalence of tourist spaces as heterotopias becomes obvious in the Palmeral’s changing role: it has changed from an agricultural area into a key factor of Elx’s touristic development. As a tourist attraction it received a new symbolic meaning and its physical appearance is adapted to tourist needs. As a world cultural heritage site the Palmeral has become a space for aliens and thus a different space. The process of touristification launched the change of economic into cultural capital. The tourist use of the Palmeral made it a heterotopia and excluded it from the people of Elx’s lives. But on the other hand, this paper will show that the valorization for tourists converted the Palmeral into an identity-generating symbol and included it into the local life.


International Geographical Union International Conference “Touristic cultures: spatialities, mobilities, corporealities” - 2010


Sion, Switzerland

Event: Conference