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Seminar Presentation, Edinburgh Napier University Business School, Graiglockhart Campus 14 June 2017


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The economies of mega-events: Decolonising the Olympic norm of hospitality in social science scholarship

Rodanthi Tzanelli, University of Leeds, UK

My presentation considers mega-events as capitalist ventures, promoting re-organisations of time and space in host cultures to enable them to respond to various mobilities of business, technological and infrastructural development, tourism and professional migration, and cultural representation. I specifically examine the Olympic Games as a ‘hospitality enterprise’ still connected to the Olympic values of reciprocity and fair competition. However, contra Marxist and Foucaultian scholarship in the field, I argue that we should split this enterprise into two forms of economy that organise mega-event labour to ensure the provision of hospitality: the ‘artificial economy’ looks after surveillance, security and the control of leisure in the Olympic city; the ‘economy of imagination’ looks after the mega-event as a creative venture, thus producing architectural legacies and ceremonial art to enhance and circulate (broadcast) the host’s cultural atmospheres.

The current scholarly focus on the ‘artificial economy’ as an economy of guest and heritage protection, and the progressive displacement of the ‘imaginative economy’ to the fields of tourism, popular culture, leisure studies and so forth, are normative through and through. They introduce a symbolically gendered division of labour that we also encounter in tourism and hospitality business, moralising economic flows and demoting mega-event leisure regimes (associated with the mega-event’s architectural and ceremonial art, or tourism imaginaries connected to the host’s cultural atmosphere) to superficial, ‘cosmetic’ pursuits. Such arguments reproduce old political discourses that valorise (masculinise) nationalism and feminise national culture that do (should) not belong to contemporary globalised environments of economic transaction, cross-cultural fertilisation and international policy exchange.

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Seminar Presentation, Edinburgh Napier University Business School, Graiglockhart Campus 14 June 2017

  1. 1. The economies of mega-events: Decolonising the Olympic norm of hospitality in social science scholarship Rodanthi Tzanelli, University of Leeds, UK Seminar Presentation, Edinburgh Napier University Business School, Graiglockhart Campus 14 June 2017
  2. 2. Olympic mega-events and hospitality • Hospitality as a bundle of practical activities: provision of food, drink, accommodation and entertainment (Lashley, 2007; Caffyn, 2012; Lynch, 2013) • Hospitality as a norm of giving, taking and receiving: recognition of parties in transaction of symbolic and material goods (Sahlins 1972, 1976; Gudeman 1986; Derrida/ Dufourmantelle 2000) • Hospitality & Olympics: moving from micro-social communal interactions to the production of multi-scalar socialities (Lashley and Morrison, Eds, 2000). • Today Olympics as capitalist enterprises (of globally networked business with city-host as ephemeral territorial node and recipient of various mobilities: tourism, media, migrations, etc) but resting on centuries-old norms (global peace-making enterprise with cultural agreements centring on sports but also ideas of cultural revival/international recognition for the city-host)
  3. 3. Capitalist enterprise based on norms?? • We are past Berlin 1936 – today, Olympics hosted by cities embedded in capitalist networks, but centralised critique of totalitarian regimes before/ during/after the bid (so there must be some democratic conditions in which OG are staged – though this not always successfully observed) • I begin by considering the Olympics as mega-events prompting spatio- temporal re-arrangements for the city-host: 1. ‘Landscape’ modifications: emergence/erasure of localities (evictions, architectural development) and socialities (habitation and formal/informal interaction spaces, tourists, mega-event visitors) 2. Mergers or clashes between temporal frames: ‘speedy’ (3-week mega-event) with ‘slow’ time (of Olympic values – ‘slow is beautiful and fair’, cittaslow)
  4. 4. On research paradigms • Critical studies of the Olympic enterprise often refuse to acknowledge fusions of recognition with exchange, turning the (allegedly uniform) Olympic industry into a target • Oeconomie artificialem: a growing criminologically-inspired field focusing on the politics of surveillance and control, drawing on the Foucaltian paradigm and replicating its ethos in examinations of business conduct • My thesis does not discredit this approach- there is both mass crime (terrorism) and white collar crime as unwelcome prospects in every Olympic Games • My thesis points out that we cannot generalise this paradigm, as more judgemental approaches on human rights activism might do…
  5. 5. Oeconomie artificialem: basic tenets • New technologies (CCTV & military technologies) are used to suppress particular social identities in the Olympic city (disenfranchised populations), survey consumption zones (visitor enclaves) and keep the mega-event safe • It is based on ocular principles and managed by ‘international experts’ working for the Olympic industry (a cultural industry a la Frankfurt School) • All ‘experts’ employed by this industry (and, laterally, the host-city) function this way and obey the rules of capital and prestige- generation machines…assumption that this should this include artists and architects or distinguished cultural employees • We can, allegedly, promote transferability of examples…
  6. 6. An analytical and practical error: morphing oeconomie imaginationis • Analytical: Foucault’s paradigm (also applied to cultural fields, such as tourism) makes an epistemological argument…but it does not examine the ontological basis of identities or their phenomenological nature (like Derrida’s or Sahlins/Gudeman’s analysis) • Practical: Ceremonial artists and architects do not work just for money…their labour has emotive and fantasiac/imaginative roots that often clash with rationalised urban planning…even if/when they work for the local/national government (though, admittedly, oeconomie articialis experts may also have non-economic motives, often of suspect nature) • Processes of art-making are not based on disciplinary mechanisms but on experiential creativity (ceremonial directors and architects as ‘travellers’ to national land - a reversal of Bauman’s (1992) critique) • Artificial economy’s ‘transferability’: dubious argument promoting homogenisation of social and cultural experience (are all hosts the same?)
  7. 7. Oeconomie imaginationis: a 21st century return to roots (of hospitality) • Act of forging cosmopolitan togetherness better suited to rise of post-national imaginaries of belonging (much like the Olympic peace-making project of host-made-guest mobility) • Art amplifying marginal voices via popular cultural channels (slums, populations affected by war and natural disasters, creative projects for younger generations) • Uses of technology for peaceful articulations of glocal memory (war and terrorist loss or environmental disasters) • In short: oeconomie imaginationis based on empathy, artistic activism and progressively a fusion of cultural with social critique (Boltanski & Chiapello 2004) • Utopian roots of hospitality in art-making?
  8. 8. Dimitris Papapaioannou Danny Boyle Ai WeiWei Caetano Veloso Gilberto Gil Santiago Calatrava Rosa Magalhaes Ringo Sheena Fernando Meirelles & Daniella Thomas
  9. 9. Forthcoming book (monograph) Mega-Events as Economies of the Imagination: Creating Atmospheres for Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Routledge (Advances in Sociology Series), 2017/18