Author:David Picard (University of Lausanne)
Paper short abstract:
This paper will discuss the relation between tourism and the historical dialectics of self-imaging as a 'magical island' in La Reunion. It will use ethnographic and ethno-historic data collected in La Reunion, Indian Ocean from 1995 to 2007.
Paper long abstract:
This paper will discuss the relation between tourism and the historical dialectics of self-imaging in La Reunion. Like other island populations that have been in continued contact with travellers, explorers, colonial settlers and tourists from continental societies, people in La Reunion, Indian Ocean today tend to auto-glorify their island, especially by attributing it magical qualities. Common sense discourses and images by Reunions for instance frequently affirm that matter brought into the island is becoming bigger, livelier, more powerful, more sexual, juicier, able to break out of established boundaries and constraints. At the same time, this quality of the island to transform or 'awaken' things (often presented as alienated from an existentialist nature of being - as part of its ideology) inflects on the very identity of the islanders in relation to the outside world. In this paper I will argue that the mobilisation of these tropes within the contact zone with Western strangers results from a dialectical process of gazing at each other, of imaging the self in the mirror of the other; from the transculturation and the auto-ethnographic use of European visual and literal romantic tropes of the 18th and 19th century introduced to, and reworked in, the island by European travellers, local European elites, and the island's 1960s decolonisation movement. In the recent and contemporary past, these tropes and their visual embodiments are once again picked up and re-twisted in the intersubjective space of tourism and related museum and heritage projects.
Looking, seeing and being seen: connecting and controlling through visual representation