Dr Irena Ateljevic was born in Croatia, a former republic of Yugoslavia but left the country in the midst of its civil war at the age of 27, when she migrated to New Zealand in 1993. Soon after she began her doctoral studies and obtained her PhD in Human Geography in 1998 at the University of Auckland. Through the lenses of critical social theory she explored processes of tourism (neo)colonialisation of Aotearoa/New Zealand and its impacts on Maori indigenous people. During the 12 years she spent living in the country, she worked at Auckland University, Victoria University of Wellington and Auckland University of Technology and did numerous international research projects in Asia and South Pacific. In 2005, she moved to the Netherlands to teach at Wageningen University, a highly esteemed university for sustainability and nature conservation issues. She has been invited to teach and speak at various universities worldwide (from Brasil to Rwanda, Australia, Fiji islands, Thailand, China, Finland, the UK, etc.).
She began her academic career as a (post)modern critical theorist who pessimistically observed structural socio-spatial inequalities produced by the overarching Eurocentric, capitalist and patriarchical framework. Yet in the course of her progressive frustration of ‘only- marking-and-not-making-a-difference’ she has moved to the transmodern and transdisciplinary space of commitment to the hopeful scholarship and caring action that awakens the power of individual agency. Her latest papers on that subject were published in scientific journals of Futuresand Integral Review. Those theoretical ideas she has been translating into the areas of sustainable development, women’s empowerment, critical tourism and community studies, and transformative education; and in empirical terms into her own classroom as well as various action oriented projects in ‘peripheral’ communities of Croatia and India. She is one of the founders of the Critical Tourism Studies network dedicated to promoting the ‘academy of hope’ concept. She is the author/editor of 4 books and 3 special issues of scientific journals and 50 refereed journal articles, invited essays and chapters in edited volumes. Irena also currently holds the position ofa senior scientific associate at the Institute for Tourism, Zagreb where she conducts a research project on the transformative power of tourism towards our sustainable future.Due to this ground-breaking work on the future of tourism she has been recently invited by the UNWTO to produce a ‘Global report on the transformative power of tourism: A paradigm shift towards a more responsible tourism traveller’, which she presented at ITB in Berlin in March 2016.