Trails, Mountains, and Green Selves: Ecotourism and Place Identity in Lebanon

By: Femke Groeneveld - Ecotourism is a fast-growing tourism sector in Lebanon. In the last decade a considerable number of organizations and projects have emerged that offer leisure activities packaged as ‘green’, ‘nature’, or ‘ecotourism’. This research makes use of ecotourism as a lens of study to explore place-making and identity construction in Lebanon by means of multisided fieldwork and a mixed-method approach.

Lebanon offers a very interesting case study contributing to a better understanding of the relation between identity construction and geography, because of its diverse demographic makeup and distinctive geographical features. Demographically speaking, Lebanon is characterised by a great ethnic, linguistic, religious, and denominational diversity, while mountain regions make up a significant part its physical geography, as two mountain ranges run north-to-south.

This research attempts to identify which actors are involved in ecotourism activities and why. It aims to deconstruct ecotourism in Lebanon as a socio-spatial practice that ascribes meaning to landscape, while this landscape is being analysed as performative identity. In order to do so, this research explores how ecotourism practices in Lebanon create a certain place-based identity centred on rural mountain regions, while they at once 1) convey a sense of place by showcasing ‘authentic rural village life’ and 2) construct a sense of belonging to the landscape by means of various outdoor activities. In doing so, it aims to ascertain what meaning is attributed to (which) landscape and apprehend how rural life is commodified, while mountains are being marketed both as an identity and as an experience.

prof. Claudio Minca
dr. Clemens Driessen