[URBANTH-L] Response to Mark

FromYosee at aol.com FromYosee at aol.com
Sat Apr 30 17:25:34 EDT 2005

No one is saying that a study on power relationships of the tourist  industry 
lacks practical application.  It is not the topic, but the  abstraction upon 
abstraction that post mo encourages that is not useful to our  discipline.  
Heck, most of us who were steeped in its tradition have a hard  time keeping 
tract of the focus let alone those in other disciplines.  
Yes, language and writing style do matter.  In this information age  when 
info is increasingly becoming available to a larger audience we need to get  over 
ourselves as an exclusive club guarding sacred knowledge.  Using  
abstractions that lose readers do nothing to promote anthropology.  A study  on the 
tourist industry with the goal of letting readers know specifically what  the 
practical applications might be promotes the usefulness of our  field.  Post mo has 
not been concerned about direct application; hence, the  term "navel gazing." 
In a message dated 4/29/2005 2:31:18 PM Central Standard Time,  
petersm2 at muohio.edu writes:

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

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