Contested Solidarities: Negotiating Transnational Solidarity through Tourism in Palestine

Anna Johnson, University of Notre Dame

How is solidarity cultivated and maintained across stark power imbalances? While social movement theory has historically assumed the state as the primary context for political contention, globalization introduces a range of other actors such as transnational corporations, intergovernmental organizations and NGOs that may enable or constrain state behavior. In this paper, I consider tourism as a potential site for transnational solidarity-building by examining the growing phenomenon of “solidarity tourism” in Palestine. My research examines how civil society organizations in Palestine creatively leverage the tourism industry to cultivate material, social, and political support while simultaneously critiquing the Western, colonial logics that make such resistance necessary. My project is the first to study this important site of resistance and contention from the perspective of local civil society organizations whose primary focus is the local community but who are frequently asked to speak to tour groups interested in learning more about the local context. These human rights, development, and religious organizations use a variety of strategies to elicit material, political, and symbolic support from international visitors. Through analyzing these organizations’ routine decision-making about whether and how to engage international actors, I discern the complex strategic and moral negotiations that define the contested terrain of solidarity-building. This paper’s unique focus on the intersection of tourism, human rights NGOs, and social movements contributes to deeper understanding of the global power asymmetries that shape possibilities and mechanisms of transnational solidarity.

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 Presented in Session 156. Figuring Global Politics