Ecotourism for conservation? The 'awkward' collaboration of whale-watching tourism and whale-meat consumption
Myung Ae Choi
(University of Oxford)
Paper short abstract:
Through ethnographic fieldwork on whale tourism of Jangsaengpo, South Korea, this paper explores the specific local translation of the global concept of ‘whale-watching tourism',which creates an ‘awkward’ collaboration of whale-watching tourism and whale-meat consumption to supplement each other.
Paper long abstract:
This paper builds upon the emerging body of social and cultural anthropology work on the global connections that creates "awkward, unstable, and unexpected aspects" emerged from the global-local 'friction' (Tsing 2004) through an analysis of whale watching discourses and practices in South Korea. The main focus is to evaluate a specific local translation of the global concept of 'whale-watching tourism' in particular, 'ecotourism' in general, which produces an 'awkward' collaboration of whale-watching tourism and whale-meat consumption to supplement each other. Although celebrated as an alternative form of development through conservation, the concept ecotourism is remained arbitrary, ranging from strictly controlled tourism focused on the conservation of target species to green legitimacy of any nature-based tourism. As a form of ecotourism, whale-watching tourism is based on particular discourses and practices that regard whales as "endangered and intelligent mammals to be protected" (Epstein 2008). However, in whale tourism of Jangsaengpo, the concept of whale-watching tourism appears to lose its normative connotations and becomes translated into another exciting economic opportunity utilizing cetaceans. Drawing on materials from ethnographic fieldwork, this paper examines the peculiar 'collaboration' of whale-watching and whale-eating experience that constitute whale tourism. This 'awkward collaboration' creates two conflicting imperatives of the protection of whales for tourism and the resumption of whaling for food. I will then relate this particular form of translation to cultural and historical specificities of South Korea that receive, transform and resist the global notion of whale-watching tourism; which simultaneously categorizes whales as meat, endangered species and biological life.
Collaboration, (in)determinacy and the work of translation in development encounters