The tourist landscape paradox

Claudio Minca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper is about tourist practices of landscape. Landscape has long been a key reference point in the construction of tourist imaginaries and, to this day, plays an important role in tourists' experience of travelling and their encounters with Otherness. Yet the ambivalent ways in which tourists conceptualize landscape is inherently paradoxical; indeed, it is by travelling that tourists try to overcome the tension produced by such a paradox. Putting into practice two alternative conceptions of landscape at once—a ‘Vidalian’ landscape-as-essence and a ‘Cosgrovian’ landscape as ‘way of seeing’—the tourist inevitably falls into an intriguing epistemological trap. Tourists' embodiment of the landscape experience becomes an attempt to evade that trap. In this paper, I note how this is exemplified in the ways in which tourist rhetoric frames the idea of Morocco and, in particular, the Jamaa el Fna square in Marrakech, the most ‘landscaped’ (and photographed) tourist site in the Maghreb. To help unpack this paradox, I take a brief look at what tourists actually do in the Jamaa el Fna, in order to reproduce, in place, their landscape-driven idea of Moroccan cultural space. The spatial practices of most tourists in that iconic place reveal, indeed, that the landscape paradox that drives tourist readings of the Jamaa el Fna cannot be avoided, but only endlessly performed, for this paradox is constitutive of the very formation of the Modern travelling European subject.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-453
JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
Issue number3
Early online date31 Aug 2007
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • landscape
  • Marrakech
  • modernity
  • paradox
  • tourism

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