David Harrison obituary

·2 min read

The sociologist and social anthropologist David Harrison, who has died aged 80 of cancer, was a leading figure in tourism studies, with a worldwide reputation.

His path to becoming an academic was unconventional and unlikely. Leaving school at 16, he was a clerk in Barclay’s bank, an HM Customs officer and a teacher before starting university aged 26. He read sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. A postgraduate student at University College London, David did ethnographic fieldwork in Grande Riviere, a village in Trinidad, and took his PhD in social anthropology in 1975.

The following year he was appointed to a lectureship at the University of Sussex, where he taught sociology and development studies, and supervised an international group of doctoral students from such places as the Philippines, Trinidad, Fiji, Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Britain and the US – he was my DPhil supervisor from 1985 to 1991. At Sussex he also published the important book The Sociology of Modernization and Development (1988).

David’s interests turned towards tourism as a development strategy, and he did research in the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, and Asia and the Pacific. From 1996 to 1998, he was at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, helping to start a programme in tourism studies. Returning to Britain, he was professor of tourism, culture and development at London Metropolitan University from 1998 to 2008. He then went back in Fiji for six years from 2008 as professor of tourism and head of school. Until the end of his life, he held part-time appointments at Middlesex University, King’s College London and the University of Surrey.

David was born in Blackpool, to where his extended family had moved from London during the second world war. He only got to know his father, Harry Harrison, who was serving under Montgomery in north Africa, after the war ended. The family moved back south to Acton, west London, where his father sold insurance and his mother, Vera (nee Hubbard), was a homemaker. David remembered rows over religion with his fundamentalist Christian parents.

A lifelong Chelsea FC supporter, David was an extremely productive scholar who spent considerable time mentoring students who, in turn, admired him. Months before his death he published Tourism, Tradition and Culture: A Reflection on their Role in Development (2020), the capstone of his distinguished career.

David is survived by his second wife, Senimili Kamikamica, whom he married in 2012, his daughter, Asha, and son, Ian, from his first marriage, to Greta Bowman, which ended in divorce, his grandson, Jules, and his sister Maureen.





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