American Anthropological Association Abstracts vol:104
Annual Meeting edition:104 location:Washington, USA date:30 November - 4 December 2005
Anthropology now takes it for granted that cultures are not (and never were) passive, bounded and homogeneous entities. Instead, space and society as well as place and community are seen as mutually constituted. However, we should question the impact of this paradigmatic shift in thinking on the world outside academia. How much did it change popular representations of cultures and other collective identities? Ideas of old-style anthropology objectifying, reifying, homogenizing, and naturalizing peoples are now widely used by social movements, staking their claims of identity and cultural belonging on strong notions of place and locality. In the multibillion-dollar tourism industry, nostalgic essentializing imagery, often based on outdated ethnographic descriptions, is used to market and sell places and people as authentic destinations. This is paradoxical because tourism itself is one of the global forces producing change and hybridity. Drawing on ethnographic data from Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and Arusha, Tanzania, this paper reflects on the following questions: Whose interests are served by (re)producing stereotyped images of the time-frozen local(s)? What agency do local people (and anthropologists) have in reproducing, contesting or transforming globally circulating tourism representations? How do culture brokers such as local tour guides negotiate the conflicting interests of foreign tourists and local communities in their own narratives? How should representations of the local, as it is currently lived and experienced, be incorporated in global tourism discourses? What is the role of an engaged ethnographer in field situations such as these, where multiple local groups with different interests compete with one another?