20061011

 

Ethno-tourism

Excerpt from e-Review of Tourism Research abstract: "...Pygmies have long been one of the classic images of Otherness. From the moment of their "discovery" in 1870, the very idea of Pygmies has captivated Western audiences, setting in motion a pattern of collection and consumption by a wide range of travellers that has had profound consequences upon our knowledge and understanding of these "mythic" beings. This formation of the myth of the Pygmies begins with the physical and symbolic extraction of the Pygmies from their environment and continues on through a process of bulimic consumption; the object of curious desire is collected, consumed, interpreted and simplified down to key symbols, confirming and strengthening the mythic properties first imposed. By looking at a cross-section of visual representations from the exploration and anthropology of Africa, this paper reveals an obsessive exoticism that has generated the stereotype of the Pygmy as a classic example of the "noble savage". This image has then been reproduced in numerous variations, refined within an ever-massing media of books, films, photographs and recordings of their music. These visual, textual and sonic images of primitive purity form the expectations of the next wave of travellers on their Pygmic tours. Through them, the myth is carried back to the rainforest in a progressive circularity that folds the image back onto its assumed source. At the end of this process are the Pygmies themselves, stuck in a specific loop of hyperreality in which the regurgitation of the myth of the pristine savage continues to frame and distort perceptions of their contemporary cultural realities. Drawing from my own research among the Basua Pygmies of Western Uganda, this paper examines how, through the experience of tourism, they come face to face with the invention of their idealized essence, with what they can and cannot be."

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