Right of passage: Backpacker subculture and the “gentrification” of tourism in Bolivia
(Ph.D., NYU Anthropology 2004)
Vail is the Associate Director of NYU’s Center for Media, Culture and History. Her academic work has focused on visual anthropology, Indigenous media and on the political economy of tourism in the developing world. She has taught on Film and Culture at NYU and Columbia University Anthropology Departments; Tourist Productions in the NYU Performance Studies Program; and documentary filmmaking through the NYU Department of Anthropology’s Culture and Media Program. Vail is a former Fulbright scholar who has additionally lectured on National Geographic and Smithsonian travel study tours. As a curator, she collaborates with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, American Museum of Natural History, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and The Moth, the storytelling collective for which she was a founding member and curator for, as well as a storytelling alumna. Her award-winning feature documentary, Gringo Trails (Icarus Films/Andana Films), looks at the long term cultural and environmental effects of global tourism. It was released theatrically and on TV in North America in 2014 and has been shown in over 50 festivals and screenings in 20 countries. Gringo Trails has been featured in Hollywood Reporter, CNN, Today Show, Der Spiegel and Vail has appeared on TV, radio, or in print as a sustainable travel expert, with appearances on CNN International, Al Jazeera, National Geographic Weekend, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Travel+Leisure. She additionally serves as a judge for National Geographic’s World Legacy Awards and as a cultural consultant for Montreal-based Felix & Paul Studios Nomad virtual reality series for Oculus Rift / Facebook.