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Sarah Becklake

Senior Research Associate

Sarah Becklake

Bowland North



Research overview

My research interests include: development politics, governance and citizenship, human mobilities, human security and securitisation, gender and intersecting inequalities, non-governmental organisations, the social implications of new technologies, and Latin America.


I am currently an ESRC-funded Post-Doctoral Research Fellow working at the intersection of tourism and security. My research project, entitled ‘Touristic Competition, Securitisation, and the Creation of (In)Securities in Guatemala’ has been funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund. Previous to this position, I worked as a Research Associate in the Centre for Mobilities Research on an EU-funded project looking at the role of ICT in public protection and disaster relief.

Post-Doctoral Research Project Overview

My current research project theorises and interrogates the competitive security practice of ‘touristic securitisation’ – defined as securing tourists to secure tourism – with the aim of offering an alternative understanding and policy approach to the ‘tourism-security nexus’. The project is grounded in ethnographic field research conducted in Guatemala, a country known for high levels of poverty, crime, and violence, but also a country with great ambitions to be a globally competitive tourism destination.

Often argued to be the world’s largest industry, tourism is a key tool of international development. But not all tourism forms are deemed equally ‘developmental’. The United Nations calls for sustainable tourism for sustainable development. Within this global policy context, making tourism more sustainable has taken on greater pertinence. The goal of sustainable tourism development has two interconnected sides to it: one the one side, tourism must be sustained as a practice and, on the other side, the practice of tourism must be made more sustainable in terms of its economic, environmental, and social impacts. As evermore countries turn to tourism as a development tool, competition to attract and satisfy tourists has intensified. In this highly competitive environment, attention is often placed on sustaining flows of tourists as a means of sustaining the prospect of tourism development. Sustaining flows of tourists is linked to questions of personal security. Tourists tend to be risk adverse and, as a result, tourist flows are highly affected by perceived risks and concrete insecurity events. As there is no tourism without tourists, here one finds the practice of touristic securitisation often positioned as a fundamental part of sustainable tourism development and ‘justified’ as an uncontentious win-win human security practice. In this project I challenge this conceptualisation.

Through theorising and interrogating touristic securitisation, I ask: How did touristic securitisation emerge? How is touristic securitisation practiced? What are touristic securitisation’s wider impacts? And, how does touristic securitisation support and/or undermine the global goal of sustainable tourism development? Through drawing upon a diversity of theories from across the social sciences, as well as field research in Guatemala, I come to argue that touristic securitisation is best understood as a neoliberal security practice offering mobile consumer protection to the privileged few. This security practice is (re)producing complex intersecting inequalities and creating new human (in)securities, and can be further linked to the rise of ‘touristic governmentality’, transformations in state governance, is a manifestation of privileged mobile citizenship, and is producing parallel worlds of (in)security. Consequently, touristic securitisation is argued to help ‘secure’ unsustainable tourism development. Following, I suggest two alternatives to touristic securitisation, one reformist and one revolutionary. While the former would see all tourism policies based on a complex and impartial reading of the tourism-security nexus, the latter suggests a post-tourism future grounded in mobility justice and human security. Likewise, this project argues not for a world made safe for tourists/tourism, but for a world made safer for all.

Current Teaching

Understanding Social Thought SOCL200 (Lancaster 2018)

Past Teaching Includes:

Gender and Women Studies GWS101 (Lancaster 2013-2014)

"Imaging the Body" SOCL317 (Lancaster, 2012)

'Introductory Sociology' SOCL101 (Lancaster, 2011-2012)

'The Feminist Economics of Trade' (Universität Kassel, 2008)

'Introduction to Globalization' (Universität Kassel, 2007-2008)


PhD in Sociology, Lancaster University, UK

Masters in Global Political Economy, Universität Kassel, Germany

University Exchange, Universidad de las Américas, Mexico

Bachelors in Sociology, Simon Fraser University, Canada

Research Grants

Current Grants/Awards:

I am currently funded by an ESRC Global Challenges Research Fund Postdoctoral Fellowship (2017)

Past Grants/Awards:

Lancaster University Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Postgraduate Research Studentship (2011-2014)

Canadian Bureau for International Education Scholarship (2006)

Simon Fraser University Undergraduate Open Scholarship (2005-2006)

External Roles

Since 2007 I have been editing English language abstracts for the German Academic Journal 'Peripherie: Zeitschrift für Politik und Ökonomie in der Dritten Welt' (Münster, Germany).

Additional Information

Thesis Title

Making 'Destino Guatemala': Everyday Enactments of Global Tourism Competition in La Antigua Guatemala

Supervised By

Professor Anne-Marie Fortier

Professor John Urry

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