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Volume 38

New Directions in Anthropology

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Tourism and Informal Encounters in Cuba

Valerio Simoni
Foreword by Nelson Graburn

282 pages, 16 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-948-4 $130.00/£92.00 Hb Published (January 2016)

ISBN  978-1-78533-833-5 $27.95/£19.00 Pb Not Yet Published (March 2018)

eISBN 978-1-78238-949-1 eBook

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“This is a book that will appeal to scholars who focus on tourism as well as those who study friendship and reciprocity in relationships. For specialists, the highlight of this book is the way that Simoni synthesizes academic research on the informal economy with the phenomenology of relationship development.” · American Ethnologist

“…a truly engaging and pleasantly readable academic treatise. What emerges is a narrative that reflects common tourism experiences in a manner both intimate and philosophically revealing while crafted so that his protagonists are never exposed or ridiculed… this remains the outstanding strength of this contribution as well as the broader research it draws on: opening rather than closing debates and leaving space to be surprised: thus Simoni, as a tourist researcher, actually manages to be a seasoned traveller while joyfully riding the ambiguities this entails. The book is witness to the productivity of such a skill. Researchers of tourism and mobilities will benefit greatly from this book.” · Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change

“The book is very exciting and I look forward to the waves it will make in the Anthropology of Tourism, since it takes us beyond old debates about lines in the sand between tourists and hosts. Simoni nicely articulates… that there are multiple desiring agents at work in Cuban tourism and it isn’t so cut and dry as ‘us’ and ‘them’.” · L. Kaifa Roland, University of Colorado

“This is an important work on the ambivalence of encounters with a priori strangers in the field of tourism, an aspect of social life that has been neglected in recent anthropological literature on tourism and in general, which often remains schematic and categorical.” · David Picard


Based on a detailed ethnography, this book explores the promises and expectations of tourism in Cuba, drawing attention to the challenges that tourists and local people face in establishing meaningful connections with each other. Notions of informal encounter and relational idiom illuminate ambiguous experiences of tourism harassment, economic transactions, hospitality, friendship, and festive and sexual relationships. Comparing these various connections, the author shows the potential of touristic encounters to redefine their moral foundations, power dynamics, and implications, offering new insights into how contemporary relationships across difference and inequality are imagined and understood.

Valerio Simoni is Research Fellow at the Anthropology and Sociology of Development Department, The Graduate Institute, Geneva. His work, grounded in ethnographic research in Cuba and Spain, focuses on the transformation of intimacy and economic practice in international tourism and migration.

Subject: General Anthropology Travel & Tourism
Area: Latin America


Nelson Graburn


Introduction: Relating through Tourism


Chapter 1. Tourism in Cuba
Chapter 2. Shaping Expectations
Chapter 3. Gaining Access
Chapter 4. Getting in Touch


Chapter 5. Commodity Exchange and Hospitality
Chapter 6. Friendliness and Friendship
Chapter 7. Partying and Seducing
Chapter 8. Seduction and Commoditized Sex

Conclusion: Treasuring Fragile Relations


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