Instagram abroad: performance, consumption and colonial narrative in tourism

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As a form of travel writing and a highly favoured marketing tool, Instagram provides a blueprint of the ideologies underpinning contemporary tourism. This article argues that consistent visual motifs on Instagram echo a colonial iconography that sees tourist destinations as available for possession and consumption, effacing local place and identity. The reproduction of three motifs – the tropical exotic, the promontory gaze and fantasised assimilation – mediatises ideations that, rather than depicting these destinations as contemporaneous spaces in which a tourist is a guest, depict them as ‘other’ realms for the tourist’s taking. Local residents, when pictured, are configured as genericised icons of exoticism that serve to imbue the tourist’s experience with authenticity. These visual tropes, paired with textual captions and hashtags, present tourists as the rightful occupants and users of local spaces in a way that echoes the colonial seizure of foreign lands, an action that is imaginatively performed as tourists enact these three motifs in Instagram posts. Taken together, the visual regime witnessed and performed on Instagram contributes to the imagined and real perpetuation of unequal power relations in global tourism, which continue to privilege wealthy tourists over local residents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-191
Number of pages21
JournalPostcolonial Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Tourism
  • Travel writing
  • Colonialism
  • Instagram


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