Accepted paper:

Innovation of traditional practice or the cultural economy of the bath-house (pirts)

Author:

Agnese Cimdina (University of Latvia)

Paper short abstract:

This paper introduces bath-house ritual which has become a highly demanded service in the contemporary Latvian countryside and fits within a broader rural development discourse addressing the commodification of experience, tradition and innovation through rural recreation tourism.

Paper long abstract:

By analyzing how Latvian smallholders have discovered new business possibilities and how, in an innovative manner, ancient bath-house traditions are turned into a product that can be purchased, this paper introduces several aspects of a bath-house ritual which has become a highly demanded service in the contemporary Latvian countryside. On the one hand, the renaissance of bath-house services in Latvia is related to the rediscovered centuries-old Latvian pirts traditions that have acquired new transnational significance; on the other hand, the popularity of bath-house procedures are linked with worldwide "wellness industry" trends. The components which make the bath-house ritual pleasurable are at least partly derived from a particular cultural and environmental context and thus can be viewed as an area of economic activity where production and consumption of experience takes place. This paper not only reflects on the growth of rural recreation tourism, but also fits within a broader rural development discourse addressing the commodification of experience, tradition and innovation through rural tourism. The empirical material of the paper is based on a long-term study of rural bath-house farms where the author herself learned the bath-house craft to gain a profound understanding of the specific nature of bath-house rituals and running a bath-house farm.

panel P004
Tourism in (post)socialist Eastern Europe (Anthromob; IUAES-TOURISM; EASA Europeanist Network)