My current project is addressing the relationship between the «sexual revolution» and youth tourism in Western Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. I am exploring young tourists from West Germany, UK and Greece. I am probing the connectivity that appeared among them during their vacations, both while travelling to specific destinations and while staying in those locations, focusing on the issue whether such connectivity affected their sexual patterns.
I am dealing with loosely-knit, non-institutionalised networks of young people, whose connectivity was established «on the move» and while they were away from «home». These people had simultaneously developed a feeling of common belonging to a broad, transnational imagined community encompassing young people, a feeling based on similar lifestyles, including fashion and hairstyle, for instance. The connectivity I am analysing, however, did not necessarily lead to long-term contact between the young people under study.
During the Summer School I have begun to reflect more extensively on a number of issues linked with the connectivity of those people. A first issue is whether the members of the peer groups of young people formed during youth travel would describe their connectivity as network. Put differently, I am interested in whether «network» can be used both as an analytical category (etic) and as a term employed by the young people under study (emic). This is an open question and to adequately tackle this I believe that it is important that I am sensitive to both the etic and the emic level. Thus, the concept of network can be complemented with other ones, such as that of «subjectivity» (Passerini) or even «emotional community» (Rosenwein) that help shed light on how the people under study conceived (and felt about) their connectivity.
A second challenge is linked with how to produce a multiscalar analysis, an issue raised, for instance, in Struck, Ferris, Revel, 2011, but also in Saunier’s text that we discussed during the Summer School. My challenge is to avoid methodological nationalism, while not neglecting the “elephant in the room”, namely the potential importance of the nation-state. In this vein, I am thinking of addressing the latter by showing the particularities of the differing political condition of the countries under study (eg Greece was ruled by a dictatorial regime between 1967 and 1974) and their impact of the freedom on the youth to travel and experiment in terms of sexual patterns. On the other hand, however, I believe that I need to be as specific as possible about the location from where the travellers departed and the locations that they visited. In this case, the level of the nation-state may be deceptive, since not every young person from every single village in Greece engaged in youth tourism. Thus, I aim to make my analysis both trans-national and trans-local, hoping to stress the importance of both the national and the local level.
The third challenge is whether it makes sense to design a set of maps to accompany and better illustrate my argument. In a sense, an interactive map, as described by Konrad Lawson in today’s unconference, would help demonstrate the concrete itineraries and trans-local connections of the young people in question. On the other hand, however, I fear that some important dimensions might not be included in these maps. For instance, travelling was an intense sensual experience, which may not be captured by just showing the itineraries from a point of departure to a destination. In addition, it seems to be an insurmountable challenge to find sufficient data that captures the exact itineraries that young tourists followed in the 1960s-1970s- for instance, they may mention only some of the visited destinations in diaries, letters, oral testimonies etc.
In brief, the Summer School has helped me develop a number of open questions about the type and scale of interconnectedness between the young tourists in question as well as whether these can be visualized. The answers, however, require further reflection.