Accepted paper:

"Like playing a game where you don't know the rules": investing meaning in intercultural cash transactions


Michelle MacCarthy (University of Bergen)

Paper short abstract:

Cross-cultural cash transactions can become morally ambiguous sites of encounter, wherein differing understandings of money’s agency lead to misunderstandings about the very nature of the exchange, both as material fact and as social act.

Paper long abstract:

When tourists visit cultural tourism destinations, the primary form of interaction between visitors and local residents is in the exchange of money for material objects and performances. While purchase of cultural commodities in tourism contexts may appear to be simple market transactions, they are often in fact morally fraught sites of ambiguous interaction, invested with disparate meanings by different participants. Drawing on Bloch and Parry's (1989) analysis of the symbolism of money and its relationship to culturally constructed ideas about production, consumption, circulation, and exchange, this article examines the conflicting and contested views of cash transactions and other types of exchange in meetings between tourists and Trobriand Islanders in Papua New Guinea. I argue that intercultural exchange in tourism is not necessarily a straightforward commodity exchange, but evokes social relations that are often quite differently conceptualized by the producers and consumers of touristic products, leading to moral judgments about the act of transaction and the intent or effect of such transactions on the social other.

panel P70
Virtue in the marketplace