C3


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Tourism as social contest 
Convenors:
Keir Martin (University of Oslo)
Carlo Cubero (Tallinn University)
Stream:
Series C: Identity, memory, imagination
Location:
Henry Thomas Room
Start time:
10 April, 2007 at 16:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:
1

Short Abstract:

We examine tourism as a social contest in which opposing groups compete to determine the meaning of tourism. People recreate opposing categories as part of this process, and we seek to examine the ways in which these contradictions are central to the formation of local evaluations of tourism. PLEASE NOTE. In order to maximise the number of papers accepted for this panel and to encourage discussion, ALL papers on this panel are e-papers. There will be no presentation of individual papers at the start of the panel; instead there will be a short overrall summary of the papers followed by discussion in which paper givers can respond and speak to their papers. Consequently we strongly encourage all those attending this panel to try to read the e-papers in advance although we welcome those who wish to attend who have not been able to do so.

Long Abstract

This panel will discuss the different types of social contests that are enacted through tourism. Tourism and tourist sites can become locations of power struggles and contestations between different social groups. In the course of such struggles people create and utilize a variety of oppositions in seemingly contradictory ways, such as global/local, authentic/commercialised, traditional/modern etc. While it is clear that anthropologists cannot unproblematically apply such dichotomies, it is also clear that these and other dichotomies are often continuously recreated in disputes within communities engaging with tourism as they contest its implications and future. Rather than seeking to explain away such contradictions, we need to see them as being at the heart of the process by which local evaluations of the tourist process are formed. The local debates that arise in and around tourism development, while creating tensions on the ground, ultimately inform the experience of living in a tourist destination. In this sense, tourist sites are locally experienced and constituted through these oppositions that are themselves produced and reproduced through debates and contests over tourism development.

We invite papers that discuss tourism sites and locations where competing discourses meet, resulting in a contest for definitions, economies, agencies, and democratic participation. We especially welcome papers that stimulate a discussion on how people produce, reproduce and negotiate these oppositions that place at stake notions of morality, belonging, place, authenticity, legitimacy and ethics, and that explore how debates involving such concepts in the tourism context illuminate wider social crises, such as socio-economic differentiation.

Accepted papers:

E

Author:

Carlo Cubero (Tallinn University)

Paper short abstract:

**

Paper long abstract:

This paper will address the social contests that arose out of a series of tourism development projects on the Caribbean island of Culebra. I will discuss how the development debates not only produced contrasting aesthetic values of the island's landscape but also placed at stake the limits of what constitutes the Culebra space. I will show how the arguments deployed during the development controversy constructed a mobile and insular island at different times and simultaneously. I will further argue that, while the protagonists of development debate represented contrasting political agendas, the constructions of Culebra as mobile and insular were mutually informing arguments that constituted Culebra's political discourse. I believe that the seemingly contradictory position of Culebra islanders towards their island represents a positive tension from where islanders construct a political identity and that the understanding of this paradox is key for further understanding the complexities of Caribbean politics in general and Culebra politics in particular.

Local authorities, in coordination with the Puerto Rico national government, set in motion an aggressive development policy under the justification of "bettering the quality of life" for the people of Culebra. The idea that the quality of life of Culebra had to be improved through tourism development was based on a discourse that constructed Culebra as poor, marginal and insular alongside with an imagery of the island's landscape as inhospitable, harsh and unproductive. Proponents of the development agenda argued that Culebra's historical insularity had worked against it and had left the island on the margins of the Puerto Rico national project. To develop the island for tourism, the argument went, would alleviate the issue of marginality and insularism by bringing Culebra into the national fold. However, local supporters of tourism development used their platform to also argue for Culebra's uniqueness and separation from the Puerto Rico national project. This uniqueness and separation from the national space was based on a discourse of mobility that represented Culebra society as mobile and operating in relation to a variety of spaces that lay outside of the national framework.

In a similar way, resistance to the development project parted from the premise that the Culebra landscape was beautiful, pristine and untouched and that a development agenda would threaten the paradisiacal quality of the landscape. Development resistance valued Culebra's insularity and marginality in relation to the Puerto Rico national project and saw the Puerto Rico sponsored development program as an antidemocratic scheme forced on to the island. Such an aggressive development program, the argument went, would affect the intimate, insular, social relations that characterise the island's way of life. It drew on imagery of Culebra being a traditional fishing community under threat by neo-liberal policies and capitalist investment groups. However, the anti-development discourse also drew from mobile practices and discourses by lobbying the support of North Americans that lived on the island, who were involved in their own transnational network of movement. The anti-development argument also drew from experiences and connections that Culebra has historically maintained with the neighbouring islands of the region that do not correspond to Puerto Rico's nor Culebra's national, racial, linguistic and academic discourse of identity.

I will examine how narratives of insularity and mobility gave shape to Culebra's current political debates. I will show how people of Culebra deployed arguments that assumed insular, national, regional and global understandings of the island in order to produce political strategies during the most aggressive development projects carried out in Culebra up to date. This paper will focus on the tensions created between national, global and insular understandings of modern development discourse and their articulation with island identities. I will specifically address the ways in which people in the Caribbean island of Culebra negotiate, appropriate and produce strategies of identity in a process that promises to affect the physical landscape of the island, people's relationship to the landscape and affect the patterns of consumption that identify Culebra.

E-paper: this Paper will not be presented, but read in advance and discussed

E

Author:

Linda McNenly (Wilfrid Laurier University)

Paper short abstract:

ON-LINE

Paper long abstract:

Cultural tourism and heritage sites are spaces for the production of national identity, culture and history. Tourist sites, however, produce partial histories and valorize selective identities. This paper considers the politics of recognition - that is the exclusion and inclusion of Nativeness - at a heritage site in Sheridan Wyoming. I examine how Westernness and Nativeness are constructed by and through reenactments and performances of the "wild west" at Sheridan's "Buffalo Bill Days" event. While the dominant discourse commemorates Western history and identity, I argue that Native participants contest this discourse through their performances, which celebrate contemporary Native culture and identity.

E-paper: this Paper will not be presented, but read in advance and discussed

E

Author:

Natasa Gregoric Bon (Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy o Sciences and Arts)

Paper short abstract:

The paper examines how the meaning of rubbish on the coast of Dhermi/Drimades, southern Albania is related to the reconstruction of social and spatial boundaries and vice versa. It illustrates how the owners of tourist facilities and the tourists discuss the rubbish as contested.

Paper long abstract:

This paper discusses how the meaning of rubbish on the coast of Dhermi (official name) Drimades (local name) in Himara Municipality of Southern Albania is related to construction and reconstruction of social and spatial boundaries and vice versa. Firstly in 1997, after the fall of the pyramid schemes and the loss of the state control in the post-communist Albania and later on after the year 2000, when the national coastal road to Dhermi/Drimades was rebuilt, tourist facilities on the coastal plain of Dhermi/Drimades enlarged in number. First owners of these tourist facilities, such as small hotels, apartments and restaurants, were mainly newcomers from Vlora and Tirana who bought the land that used to belong to the state in the period of communism (1945-1990). Later, after 2000, the returnees from Greece, whose parents originate from Dhermi/Drimades, joined these endeavours and built their tourist facilities on the land which belonged to their ancestors. Nowadays, with the growing number of tourists coming to the coast of Dhermi/Drimades, coinciding with the absence of communal service, the dumpsites along the main road and in the clearings are rising in numbers and rubbish is becoming an important issue in general. This paper illustrates how the owners of tourist facilities and the tourists, represented by emigrants originating from Dhermi/Drimades and other places throughout Albania, as well as others coming from Vlora and Tirana or rarely from different parts of Europe, discuss the rubbish as contested. In their representations, they negotiate who is responsible for the rubbish. During these negotiations the local owners and the emigrants originating from the Dhermi/Drimades construct and reconstruct the social and spatial boundaries and their sense of belonging.

E-paper: this Paper will not be presented, but read in advance and discussed

E

Author:

Keir Martin (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines contests over the meaning of customary displays performed at the annual PNG Mask Festival and disputes over the location of the festival as manifestations of growing distrust of an emerging elite.

Paper long abstract:

The annual Papua New Guinea Mask Festival is held each summer in the town of Rabaul, the former capital of East New Britain Province until its partial destruction by a volcano in 1994. The festival is organised by the PNG government's National Cultural Commission as a key part of its mission statement to, 'preserve and protect culture in PNG', yet it is also explicitly envisaged as a potential tourist attraction. The event is always controversial at a local level. As might be expected there are often considered to be tensions between the two stated purposes of the event, with local critics questioning the extent to which an event designed to attract tourist dollars preserves rather than damages custom. In particular, the participation of the tubuan, a masked dancing figure of a secret male society of the local Tolai people provokes particular concern; tubuans are considered to have important work to do in marking the relationships between clans at mortuary events and the propriety of raising them when they 'have no work to do' is questioned.

This is not the only controversy surrounding the festival however. Since the eruption, the provincial capital has been moved to the nearby town of Kokopo, provoking much anger amongst those, especially expatriate Australians, who have commercial interests in Rabaul. They doubt the claims that Kokopo is physically safer and suspect corrupt financial motives on the part of government bureaucrats. Sometimes reasons are found to suggest moving the Festival to Kokopo which provokes fury amongst these interest groups, especially those involved in the hotel and tourism industries.

These two controversies may seem to be unrelated, yet I argue that they both speak to a sense of unease about the nature of economic relations in the post-disaster environment. The first controversy speaks to a rapidly growing consciousness of economic differentiation amongst grassroots Tolai of which a feeling that powerful elites are commercialising custom is a central part. The second controversy speaks of a sense amongst a previously economically powerful, but now marginalised group that the disaster has become an opportunity to reorganise the economy away from the commercial vitality of Rabaul towards an economy dominated by corrupt bureaucrats doling out aid money in Kokopo. In both cases the contest over the location and meaning of the attempts to draw tourists to the area at the Festival can be understood as a central part of a wider struggle to renegotiate economic relations in the immediate context of post-disaster reconstruction and the wider context of ongoing neo-liberal globalisation.

E-paper: this Paper will not be presented, but read in advance and discussed

E

Author:

Broughton Anderson (University of Massachusetts)

Paper short abstract:

In the midst of a national tourism plan, periphery regions often find themselves at a crossroads. Though tourism is an important economic endeavor it also highlights how regions who do not "fit" the tourist expectation, struggle to compete for profits.

Paper long abstract:

To the tourist, Scotland, as promoted by its national tourist site, elicits a distinctive picture: castles, tartans, bagpipes, the highlands and kilts. However, regions on the periphery of the nation often struggle to attract tourists because they do not always "fit" this national picture. I examine Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland as a site at the crossroads of national tourism: an important economic endeavor that concomitantly highlights how marginalized regions struggle to compete for tourism profits and challenges national policies designed to promote economic development. As an archaeologist, I approach tourism, its practices and processes, as artefacts/material culture that reveal local agency in the midst of hegemony. The use of ethnography uncovers locals' everyday experiences with their past and present landscape revealing a diverse but no less intimate relationship with the changes brought about by tourism. Tourism thus becomes a vehicle for exposing deeper political, economic and social issues at play in Scotland's development as a nation.

E-paper: this Paper will not be presented, but read in advance and discussed

E

Author:

Eileen Walsh (Skidmore College)

Paper short abstract:

Within this paper, I explore discourses and countercurrents of identity produced by tourism in the Lugu Lake area of southwest China. The Mosuo, a small matrilineal group, have been deluged with Chinese tourists searching for matriarchy and free love.

Paper long abstract:

As mobility and consumption link to create the rush of domestic tourists across China, more and more "remote" peoples and places are called upon to define themselves - both to package themselves for marketing as well as to try to remember and hold onto group identity in the face of the "golden hordes" of wealthier tourists descending on their locales. Decades of inclusion in the Chinese state, media, national education, and now ethnic tourism have created competing versions of Mosuo identity in Yongning, northwest Yunnan. The Mosuo at Lugu Lake have had to deal with romantic notions of the lake as both a land of wise matriarchs and a feminist paradise or a land of frolicking maidens and a place for quick and easy trysts. Meanwhile, the image of Namu, known to urban Chinese as the ultramodern Mosuo, competes with images of "daughters" and "princesses" at secluded and ostensibly backward Lugu Lake. Within this paper, I explore discourses and countercurrents of identity produced by tourism in the Lugu Lake area, and the challenges to simple configurations of Han and "Other" as a basis for ethnic politics and understandings in China. I describe media representations of the Mosuo, as well as their responses, and then turn to a discussion of gender, ethnicity and Mosuo identity. I use the example of Namu to look at how Mosuoness is being created, debated and presented. I contrast this with notions of cultural preservation presented by scholars and tourism officials working on preserving Mosuo culture to interrogate ideas of culture and authenticity.

E-paper: this Paper will not be presented, but read in advance and discussed

E

Author:

Mark Lindley-Highfield of Ballumbie Castle (University of the Highlands and Islands)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, I examine the contest between the competing identities of a combined hotel and prayer hall for converts to Islam in Mexico, how this predicament mirrors the wider experience of Mexico's converts to Islam, and the resultant implications for the Mexican Muslim convert community.

Paper long abstract:

A recent visitor to Mexico, from Muslim Aid, commented on the necessity for religious projects to exhibit self-sufficiency. The dependence on external aid should, now, never be taken for granted. In such a climate, the need for entrepreneurial ingenuity is essential to the successful operation of any religious enterprise. Dar as Salam is the product of a pioneering Mexican project to bring a place of worship and conference centre to the Mexican Muslim convert community. To provide itself with some revenue, it opened the doors of its residential accommodation to the public for visitors to the popular Mexican weekend retreat of Tequesquitengo in Morelos. With this coincided a critique of the relationship between the place's Mexican and Muslim identities. Tequesquitengo provides the Muslim converts of Mexico with a retreat from the ordinary pressures of Mexican life, which has been likened to the hijra, or exile, performed by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Yet, non-Muslim visitors who come to stay have brought with them the indulgencies of their modern lifestyle, including the drinking of alcohol, and fornication. Some Muslim visitors to the mosque have therefore been critical of the haram, or forbidden, nature to some of the activities taking place there, yet the centre remains dependent on such sources of revenue for its existence. In this paper, I examine how the dual nature of this conflict between being Muslim and Mexican mirrors to some extent the experiences of the wider Mexican convert community, yet how this predicament is an inevitable product of the desire of external investors to minimize a venture's dependency on external resources in a context where the Muslim community is developing.

E-paper: this Paper will not be presented, but read in advance and discussed

E

Author:

Will Rollason (Brunel University London)

Paper long abstract:

Panapompom, a small island in the Louisiade Archipelago of Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea, is a popular destination for yachts. The arrival of a yacht reiterates the founding opposition of Panapompom efforts to appear developed: that between the white other and the black self, striving towards the other's position of wealth and power. This opposition grounds contests over local identities and the form of the community.

Yachts are a useful source of ropes, sails, lead ballast, and other high value items for local people. Requesting things of white tourists, however, places Panapompom people in a developmental bind. In the normal run of day-to-day development, local people seek to present an image of parity with their imagination of white people by rejecting 'primitive native custom' in favour of 'developed' or 'modern' modes of acting. However, perceived tourist demands for the attention of natives, not developed counterparts, leads to a humiliating dilemma for local people. How should they present themselves to tourists as attractive people of culture and local knowledge, while at the same time using them as an avenue to development?

I dwell on the efforts of one young informant, Maipu, whose own response to this conundrum focuses on the development of a personal style that I gloss as black as opposed to native. Asserting his identity as a mystic 'bush doctor', criminal and rapper, he populates the space opened by the white-black dichotomy with a parallel culture that seems to offer parity in difference. At the same time, his black style brings him into conflict with local elders who see his attempts on the white other as an immoral transgression of the Christian norms of the developing community.

E-paper: this Paper will not be presented, but read in advance and discussed