[URBANTH-L]Response to Joe Ellman

Dr. Mark Peterson petersm2 at muohio.edu
Fri Apr 29 13:52:25 EDT 2005

For many years I have suspected that the term "postmodern" (along with the 
term "politically correct") is simply a straw man people construct to burn, 
or an epithet that people throw at things they don't like or don't 
understand.  Joe Ellman's post does nothing to disabuse me of this 
notion.  What on earth seems "po-mo" or "navel gazing" about cultural 
tourism and performance?  Or have words like "performance" and "story" just 
become anti-"po-mo" red flags producing knee jerk responses?

Tourism circulates as much or more people and more money around the globe 
than labor migration, albeit along very different circuits and for 
different durations.  The recent efforts by IMF and other organizations to 
promote tourism as yet another "magic bullet" has led states to put 
increased pressure on their "indigenous" groups to market and display 
themselves for touristic consumption.  Under these pressures, ritual 
performances are broken free of their local life cycle patterns, social 
structures, agricultural cycles and religious calendars, with enormous 
consequences for local social and cultural transformation.  Economies, 
politics, belief systems--everything is potentially affected.  Ironically 
(oops--another po-mo red flag word), even as indigenous groups seek to 
market "authenticity" to foreigners, as a result of those efforts the 
problem of authenticity arises in the local community as ritual becomes 
increasingly a scripted "performance".  In some communities, rituals are 
transformed and important intergenerational cultural realities are lost, 
traded for tourist dollars.  In other cases, revivals are occurring.  For 
example, in Malta the willingness of tourists to pay to watch "medieval" 
Catholic pageants has reawakened interest in these rites among the middle 
classes, whose educations for decades have taught them to ignore them.

Social change, community, social structure, economic adaptation, 
ritual--there's nothing "po-mo" or esoteric in any of this.  Nor is there 
anything unreal about the millions of Americans and Europeans and Asians 
who will pay for cultural tourism, creating the engine that generates the 
performances.  And there are jobs in it.  Cultural tourism is financed by 
many development agencies. So you can use your anthropological knowledge to 
be selling authenticity or assisting local communities to adapt to economic 
conditions while minimizing cultural loss, or both, depending on your 
ethical standards.
Frankly, I think it sounds like a great conference and I'm sorry I'll be in 
North Africa and have to give it a miss.


Mark Allen Peterson
Asst Prof of Anthropology and International Studies
152 Upham Hall
Miami University
Oxford, OH  45056
tel: 513 529-5018
fax: 513 529-8396
e-mail: petersm2 at muohio.edu

Now in paperback: Anthropology and Mass Communication

In a message dated 4/28/2005 10:40:16 AM Central Standard Time,
acjancius at ysu.edu writes:

2005 Tourism and Cultural  Change Research Conference
Sheffield, United Kingdom, 14-18 July  2005

> >Thanks for keeping the list updated to conferences in our subfield (such as
> >this post and the other about the German conference).  I must wonder,
> >however, whether I made an incorrect assumption when subscribing to this
> >division.  I thought urban anthropology was one of the more
> >practical  arms of our
> >discipline.  Either I was incorrect or we are turning  the clock back a few
> >years to when post-mo became the standard  "scholar-ese," unapproachable
> >to all
> >not well versed in the esoteric world of  literary criticism.
> >
> >I have to wonder how this is going to be helpful to our discipline  with
> >budget crunches in Higher Ed and tenured positions of  retirees turning
> >multiple part-time adjunct pools.  Do we  not need to show our colleagues
> >administrators how anthropology is *more*  rather than *less* applicable
> >to today's
> >difficult economic times in  education?
> >
> >Please think about trading in the seemingly self-important naval gazing for
> >more fruitful, applicable and future-reaching approaches.
> >
> >Joe Ellman, Ph.D.
>URBANTH-L mailing list
>URBANTH-L at lists.ysu.edu

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