I am Director of the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage - a major inter-disciplinary research and graduate Institute working with the World Heritage Site and associated museums of Ironbridge.
My interests lie in how we produce and consume categories of heritage within changing cultural and cross-cultural contexts. I am particularly interested in how tourists experience the past and how tourism works with heritage to shape identities at the individual and collective level.
For nearly twenty five years my work has focused upon the inter-relationships between tourism, heritage and culture. Understanding tourism, and ourselves and others as tourists, provides us with an important conceptual lens through which we can interrogate heritage and other dimensions and expressions of culture.
My work is international and interdisciplinary. I work at the boundaries of social anthropology, cultural studies, geography and history. I am the founder of the Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change, the founder and editor of the Routledge published Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change and the Channel View book series on Tourism and Cultural Change now with over thirty titles. I am on the Editorial Boards of several journals including: Mobilities, Levant and the Scandinavian Journal of Tourism. I was pleased to be invited to edit the SAGE Handbook of Tourism Studies (with Tazim Jamal). I have worked with UNESCO to produce a major report on Tourism, Culture and Sustainable Development and was commissioned to write on tourism and representation for the 2009 UNESCO World Diversity Report.
I have worked on research and projects in over 30 countries. I was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of Literature at the University of Kwazulu Natal, South Africa; Visiting Professor in the Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia, Università degli Studi di Trento, Italy and; most recently, Visiting Professor at National Central University in Taiwan.
I have been fortunate to have been invited to give keynote speeches at a number of international conferences in the UK, Taiwan, China, India, Jordan, Lebanon, Portugal, France, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Lithuania, Spain, Czech Republic, Canada, and the USA. I have initiated and directed over 20 international conferences as a way of setting new agendas in research and as a way of developing productive partnerships with academics working in interesting fields and engaging with a wide range of international heritage and cultural institutions. I seek to work with researchers from a wide variety of disciplines and cultural backgrounds in order to produce innovative and imaginative ways to understand and to translate the inter-relationships between heritage, tourism and culture.
I have on-going interests in the ways that heritage is mobilised for tourism and identity making in various places and have worked on this in relation to Jordan (and formerly Syria and Lebanon) and also in Taiwan. I am also interested in tourist practice and performance and the emotional encounters of tourists in the face of various categories of heritage.
Current research relates to the role of heritage in shaping identities in Taiwan. I am interested in the inscriptive power of World Heritage and UNESCO designations. I am also researching early tourism to World War One sites.
I am a long standing member of the UNESCO/UNITWIN Network on Tourism, Culture and Development, coordinated through Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. I am a former member of the Culture Committee of the UK National Commission for UNESCO. I have served as a Ministerial appointed member on the UK’s Expert Panel to determine the UK’s Tentative List for World Heritage and was recently appointed to the UNESCO Expert Panel to assist with the development of a Programme in World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism.
I am an elected Board member/Trustee of the Council for British Research in the Levant (an overseas Institute of the British Academy) and management committee member for the British Institute in Aman, Jordan.
I am an Advisory Board member of the Berkeley based International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments (IASTE).