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A portrait of Erik Cohen

Cohen, SA (2013) A portrait of Erik Cohen Anatolia: an international journal of tourism and hospitality research, 24 (1). pp. 104-111.

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Abstract

When Editor-in-Chief of Anatolia, Metin Kozak, asked me in early 2013 to write a portrait of Erik Cohen, who is the George S. Wise Professor of Sociology (emeritus) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the most recent winner of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Ulysses Prize for Excellence in the Creation and Dissemination of Knowledge, I was attracted to the idea, but also rather hesitant. I hesitated because I worried over giving a just picture of a foundational scholar who had contributed to building the field of tourism studies for more than forty years, and who showed no signs of slowing down the pace or magnitude of his contributions, despite now being more than eighty years old. My first ever communication with Erik was only in late 2010, and during the two plus years I had corresponded with him, I had quickly come to know his meticulousness in his scholarship and in his attention to the social world. Yet I without doubt saw the importance and necessity of writing this portrait, not only because Erik is an internationally well-recognised scholar in the field of tourism, but also because there is only piecemeal biographical information available about him in the public domain. As a consequence, Erik’s biographical history, and for that matter, even photos of him, are somewhat elusive, which is problematic for newer generations of scholars wishing to know more about the person behind several of the seminal publications that contributed to steering tourism studies. An up-to-date profile of Erik is not to be found presently on any university website, or on sites such as Academia.edu or LinkedIn. A Google Images search returns a couple of abstracted photos of him, unaccompanied by any recent biographical information. Published work on Erik’s life is limited to his own reflective chapter in Dennison Nash’s (2007, p. 51) edited collection The Study of Tourism: Anthropological and Sociological Beginnings, where he gives a thorough account of how tourism emerged for him “from a merely marginal interest during [much earlier] field work” to becoming “the point of departure for a life-long preoccupation with tourists”; an encyclopaedic entry on him authored by Nelson Graburn (2003) in the Biographical Dictionary of Anthropology; and a recent autoethnographical account (Cohen 2012a) of his experience during the 2011 Bangkok flood. The significance of a lack of an overall portrait of Erik’s academic life to date is compounded by his move to Thailand in 2001, which has meant that opportunities for face-to-face encounters with him, at least for scholars residing outside Asia, have become rarer. These factors undoubtedly justify the need for this written portrait. This leads to the question of why it was I who was asked to write this portrait, given that I have known Erik for less than three years at time of writing. I should clarify that we bear no relation, despite sharing the same surname. My first communication with Erik arose from reading his (2010) publication “Tourism, Leisure and Authenticity” in Tourism Recreation Research, which sparked me to send him an introductory email to discuss the content of that work, which I felt had resonance with some of my own emerging ideas. Erik’s warm reception to my approach led to a regular exchange of email correspondence, punctuated by a face-to face two-week visit in Thailand in 2012, which in sum generated two collaborative works, “Authentication: Hot and Cool” and “Current Sociological Theories and Issues in Tourism”, both recently published (2012a; b) in Annals of Tourism Research (ATR). Our regular email correspondence continues to this day, as we have embarked upon further collaborative work. It is the result of this close communication over the last few years that I was well placed to write this portrait, for which the methodology has not called for exchanges between Erik and I beyond our typical correspondence. As per our normal working practice together, we simply emailed back and forth, with Erik answering my requests for information and vignettes on particular areas of his professional (and overlapping to a degree, personal) life. It is by this means, supplemented by past biographical publications dealing with elements of Erik’s life, that I had the resources necessary to craft this portrait. I thus commence by providing a narrative of Erik’s academic development, while along the way accounting for some of the key milestones in his professional life, stretching from youth to Emeritus status to the time of writing, before finally reflecting further on his contributions to the development of tourism studies.

Item Type: Article
Authors :
NameEmailORCID
Cohen, SAUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Date : 2013
Identification Number : 10.1080/13032917.2013.785694
Uncontrolled Keywords : tourism, sociology, social anthropology
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 28 Mar 2017 13:48
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 15:08
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/775202

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