Public lecture

Guest lecture by Dr. Alena Pfoser “Tourism as memory-making: a comparative ethnography of Russian tourism to post-Soviet cities”

06/18/2019 - 14:00 - 15.00

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On 18th of June 2 PM Dr. Alena Pfoser, lecturer in communication and media studies in Loughborough University will give a guest lecture about Russian tourism to post-Soviet cities in Tallinn University School of Humanities (room A-447). 

Every year several millions of Russians travel abroad for leisure and entertainment, making Russia one of the largest outbound tourism markets in the world. Among their favourite destinations are cities that used to be part of tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union when the territory of what was considered "their lands" extended far beyond the current boundaries of Russia. Beyond their economic significance, Russians' transnational tourist mobilities to post-Soviet cities constitute a discursive opportunity for the negotiation of the shared past, its significance, interpretation, and consequences: What paths are made in/visible for tourists as they walk through the urban landscapes. What interpretations of heritage are offered, and how are conflicting meanings dealt with? What
consequences do the memories produced in tourism have for present-day identities and relations? These questions are particularly relevant as touristic memory-making is situated in the context of on-going ‘memory wars’ between Russia and its neighbors, in particular in relation to the interpretation of World War II and the communist period. Focusing on guided tours for Russian tourists in Tallinn, the lecture shows the productivity of tourist encounters for remembering processes and argues that although touristic engagements with the past are often flawed, the face-to-face encounters between tourists, tour guides
and hosts constitute vernacular international relations that encourage (limited) dialogue and challenge established animosities. The lecture is based on a comparative ethnographic project, examining Russian tourism in Tallinn, Kyiv, and Almaty (2019–2021, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council) and a pilot study conducted in Tallinn in 2016.

About the lecturer: Dr. Alena Pfoser is since 2015 a Lecturer in Communication and Media Studies at the Centre for Research in Communication and Culture in Loughborough University. She studied sociology and Russian Studies in Vienna, Krasnodar and Saint Petersburg, before coming to Loughborough to conduct a Ph.D. in Social Sciences (2010–2014). She has worked in several national and international research projects in Austria and Germany, most recently as a Marie Curie Fellow at the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography in Leipzig, Germany (2014–2015). Alena Pfoser’s research focuses on memory, cultural identity and tourism, with a particular regional interest in the post-Soviet space. She currently conducts research on the production and circulation of cultural memories in Russian tourism to post-Soviet cities. The research examines how tour guides and tourists construct local heritage and shared pasts and what consequences this has for present-day identities and relations. Research is being conducted in three different cities, Tallinn, Kyiv and Almaty, using a comparative ethnographic approach. Her previous research has looked into processes of remembering
and place-making in the context of border change.

The lecture is organized in cooperation with Tallinn University Centre of Excellence in Intercultural Studies.