Authentic housing, authentic culture?: transforming a village into a 'tourist site' in Manggarai, eastern Indonesia.
Indonesia and the Malay World, 31
Since the publication of MacCannell’s The tourist (1976), the issue of ‘authenticity’ has been at the centre of tourism studies. Whilst early analysts broadly agreed with MacCannell’s thesis that tourism, by turning culture into a commodity, replaced real with ‘staged’ authenticity (ibid, 91-107), more recent work has shown ‘an increased awareness of the social construction and invention of both tradition and authenticity’ (Wood, 1992: 57). That is, authenticity is increasingly seen as a socially constructed concept, with criteria for judgement of ‘the authentic’ varying greatly between different actors. In addition, analysts are moving away from rather naive considerations of the ‘impact’ of tourism on pristine, pre-tourist culture, to an appreciation that not only does tourism create a ‘space for discussion’ of tradition (see both Adams and Picard, this issue), but that its ‘impact’ is always bound up with local cultural politics (Wood, 1992: 67-8). In this paper, I describe an Indonesian tourism project – the ‘discovery’ of an apparently ‘untouched’ village and its remodelling into a ‘tourist site’ – in which issues of ‘authenticity’ played a central part. As I shall show, both concepts of authenticity and perceptions of what objects, practices or other aspects of culture should be the focus of talk about authenticity varied between state officials, ambitious young men, ritual elders and other villagers. Not only does the project I describe have implications for pan-Indonesian discourses on ‘culture’ and ‘ethnicity’, it also raises issues concerning the ways in which local people distinguish between different kinds of visitors, and how ‘tourism’ can have a profound impact on local perceptions of place and identity, even in the absence of large numbers of visitors.
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