Accepted Paper:

Hunting the wild 'Other' to become a Man  


Rachel Ben David (Ben Gurion University of the Negev)

Paper short abstract:

This paper aims to understand the encounters between Israeli tourists and wild animals. This local phenomenon, which bears elements of a rite of passage in the context of watching wild animals, may shed light on the global practice of the Safari tourism industry.

Paper long abstract:

As part of a growing Western tourism industry, organized Safari tours to East African countries from Israel are gaining momentum. Like their partners throughout the world, Israeli middle-upper class tourists seek to experience otherness in the wilderness. They are fascinated with the realization of their imagination of wild animals, and consequently eager to "capture the moments" with their legal weapons, cameras.

This paper will be concerned with the coming into being of the unique Israeli phenomenon: Bar/Bat Mitzvah safari tours to Africa. Apparently, Israel is the only country in the world where organized safari groups to Africa have evolved into 'family tours'. This 'family celebration' includes several families of (grand)parents and (grand)children, who mark the transitional period of girls' and boys', 12th or 13th birthdays with organized group tours to Africa. In the journey, teenagers encounter issues such as survival, aggressions, death and fears, which are rooted in the gaze constructed by social agents such as National Geographic. The Safari becomes a symbolic rite of passage, into which parents' African dreams are united. In the liminal 9-day space of the safari, the wild becomes a performing stage for parents to "visit" childhood practices, while teenagers undergo a maturing experience in which they practice adulthood. Apparently, both reencounter each other and themselves within a framework of suppressed aggressive instincts evoked while watching wild animals and captured by cameras. Based on anthropological research including participation-observation, and interviews with tourists, I intend to address human-non human interactions with a unique particular perspective.

Panel P12
Gazing at the game: the anthropology of tourists' wild-animal encounters