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Sean Smith

PhD Candidate


My thesis work investigates colonial legacies in contemporary tourism, taking a discourse approach to understand how nineteenth-century ways of seeing continue to permeate the global tourism industry. In this work I look closely at travel writing and accompanying visual cultures in the nineteenth century, particularly among Victorian travelers through whom a close association between colonialism and the nascent international tourism industry developed. It was in the period of British imperial expansion that a mode I describe as the colonial picturesque coalesced, a sentimentality and aesthetic that underpins much of how tourists are today taught to see other, especially formerly colonized destinations. I have written about the colonial picturesque in the journal Studies in Travel Writing, while I have sought to demonstrate its present invocations in such contemporary spaces as Instagram in the journals Postcolonial Studies and Social Semiotics. Presently, I am focusing on how conceptions of authenticity and a tourist “frontier” were constructed during the nineteenth century, as I seek to draw out this historical resonance through my case study in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar.

Google Scholar profile:

Selected Publications

2019  “Aestheticising empire: the colonial picturesque as a modality of travel.” Studies in Travel Writing 23(3), pp. 280-297. doi:10.1080/13645145.2019.1710903.

2019  “Landscapes for ‘likes’: capitalizing on travel with Instagram.” Social Semiotics, pp. 1-21. doi:10.1080/10350330.2019.1664579.

2018  “Instagram Abroad: Performance, consumption and colonial narrative in tourism.” Postcolonial Studies21(2), pp. 172-191, doi:10.1080/13688790.2018.1461173.

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