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Luxury consumption and tourist landscapes in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean

Institute for Advanced Studies @ Lancaster University
11th and 12th of September 2008

Workshop organised by the Departamento de Análisis Geográfico Regional y Geografía Física, Facultad de Geografía e Historia. UCM, Spain; Departamento de Antropología Social, Facultad de CC. Políticas y Sociología. UCM, Spain and ‘mediterranean mobilities’ – CeMoRe, Lancaster University, UK


Invited speakers:

Jonathan V. Beaverstock, University of Nottingham, UK. 'Locating the Global-super Rich in Contemporary Globalization'


Ghislain Dubois, Executive Director, TEC Consultants / Associate Professor, Versailles University, France. 'Tourism and Climate Change: Luxury and Inequality in the Access to mobility'


Pau Obrador, Sunderland University, UK. 'Dreams of luxury, Mediterranean Tourism and Bio-politics'


Rothanti Tzanelli, Leeds University, UK. 'The DaVinci Node: between ''Staged Cosmopolitanism'' and Democratised Consumption'


Ana García Silberman, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, and Matilde Córdoba Azcárate, Universidad Complutense de Madrid. 'A taste for a distinctive Caribbean: Exclusive Tourism in Yucatán's Haciendas'


Mimi Sheller, Swathmore University, USA. 'Sim-City-sur-Mer: Virtual Islands, Tourism Mobilities, and the Offshore Caribbean'


John Urry, Centre for Mobilities Research, UK. 'Reassessing Luxury and Excess'

Signs of conspicuous ostentation proliferate along Caribbean and Mediterranean landscapes. Megayatchs, private islands, ultra-expensive mansions, luxury hotels, and exclusive restaurants and country clubs speak of the prominence these regions are gainning in the transnational lifestyles of the super-rich.

Luxury has been no stranger to places like Antigua, Belize, Bahamas, Barbados, Saint Tropez, Mallorca, or Monte Carlo in the 20th century. Yet the scale and geographical scope of recent developments are a reflection of the rapid polarisation of wealth in the last two decades and the rising number of individuals engrossing the lists of the multi-millionaire, mega-rich and billionaire (increase of 200,000 people in 2003 totalling 7.3 million globally).

Social scientists are beginning to map out the spaces and practices of the super-rich in metropolitan areas of industrial countries and examine their significance in altering city landscapes. Understanding these mobile elites requires also a closer escrutiny of their transnational lifestyles and the constelation of places interconnected through their consumption patterns. This workshop will examine luxury consumption in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean paying particular attention to the wider social, economic and environmental implications of elite lifestyles and their role in articulating flows of people, images, fantasies, objects and money.

The Caribbean and the Mediterranean are particularly interesting areas for the study of the new high-earners. The democratisation of tourism in the postwar period partially eclypsed their earlier image as playgrounds of elite consumption and witnessed the emergence of discourses about their environmental destruction in the hands of herd-like tourists. Today their image of places spoiled by mass tourism co-exists in stark contrast with landscaped enclavic resorts evoking a sense of distinction and ecology. This should not be seen as a completely new trend. Mass tourism has always involved a paradoxical combination of narratives about accessibility and the democratization of travel along with unavoidable rounds of distinction games. Yet an interesting question in the age of the risk society and global resource scarcity is the way in which the rising aspirations and ‘luxury fever’ of the middle classes animated by the extravagant lifestyles of the super-rich are being negotiated with concerns about environmental limits.

We invite papers and presentations on such topics as:
- Cultures and practices of elite consumption in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean from a historical perspective;
- Manifestations of the ‘luxury fever’ among middle classes in mass resorts today and historically;
- Changing perceptions of the ‘mass’ element in mass tourism in relation with elite consumption;
- New de- and re-naturalizations of landscapes taking place around elite consumpion;
- Media representations of luxury tourism;
- Effects of ostentation in cultures of hospitality and, more specifically, on the solidarities these conspicuous lifestyles are enabling or hindering among the ‘ordinary’ people;
- Significance of the consumer spaces and practices of the super-rich in articulating global flows of people, objects, money and ideas;
- Infrastructures enabling the transnational lifestyles of the super rich;
- Methodological challenges of researching the residential and consumer spaces/practices of the super-rich.

Abstracts should include a title, contact details of the author(s) (name, postal address, email), and a summary of no more than 300 words. Please submit abstracts to the organisers no later than the 1th of July.

Information for participants
The workshop will begin at 11.30am on the 11th and finish at 4.45pm on the 12th. The Institute for Advanced Studies is at Lancaster University (number 17 in map). Further practical information about the event and travelling to Lancaster will be sent to registered participants the 1st of September.

We hope to see you in September.


Javier Caletrío
Matilde Córdoba Azcárate

Co-sponsored by the Centre for Mobilities Research
and the Institute for Advanced Studies


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