Cultural commodification and tourism a very special relationship

tourism and tourists for culture' (Craik, ) has become a very significant .. tions of social relations through time; and to think of particular attempts. Tourism policy and destination marketing in developing countries: The chain of influence. Cultural commodification and tourism: a very special relationship. Tourism: International Case Study Perspectives, Wallingford, UK: CABI, pp. 3– D. () Cultural commodification and tourism: a very special relationship.

Yet, while claiming to give use-value and exchange-value equal weight in his dialectic of the commodity, Marx actually framed use-value as concrete and exchange-value as abstract Baudrillard, Such a natural value is regarded as a given by Marx: The exchange, or sale, of commodities at their value is the rational way, the natural law of their equilibrium. It must be the point of departure for the explanation of devia- tions from it, not vice-versa, the deviations the basis on which this law is explained.

Marx, [emphasis added] For Marx, the exchange of commodities at what he believed is their true value is the starting point for explaining exchange itself. In other words, rather than being engaged in a dialectic relationship with use-value, exchange is required to mirror it. A logocentric relationship between use value and exchange value thus reveals itself: In short, an opposition between a calculative exchange-value and a spontaneous use-value does not work, whether in regard to material objects or cultural products: In other words, value, cultural or otherwise, is radically contingent: All value is radically contingent, being neither a fixed attribute, an inherent quality, or an objective property of things but, rather, an effect of multiple, continuously chang- ing and continuously interacting variables or, to put this another way, the product of the dynamics of a system, specifically an economic system.

It is important to remember that authenticity in this sense demands a turning away from the dichotomy of original-as-natural and a copy-as-degrading.

In terms of cultural practices and tourist studies 2: When they travel on such a path, cul- tural practices are presumed by many cultural critics to move from a sanctified sphere of wholeness and, once outside, to become coarse. Cultural that is, aesthetic value circulates sepa- rately and distinctly from economic value.

However, as Smith points out, these two discourses of value are bound up with each other in a binary relationship premised on the privileging of the cultural over the economic, a privileging in turn rooted in what she has argued is a broad-based suspicion of utilitarianism within the contemporary humanities.

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Thus, cultural value often is framed in everyday life as profound, transcendent, creative, intrinsic and an end in itself, while economic value is framed as superficial, repetitive, instrumental, calcula- tive, and a means to an end.

One is good, the other bad; one is located in the temple, the other in the market Within the university, one is mainly studied in English and Anthropology departments, the other in Economics and Public Policy departments.

Most importantly, these categories of value circulate as distinct and separate, a practice that leads to an always- present tension centered on efforts to maintain these distinctions, thereby mys- tifying the aesthetic p. For example, what happens when a group of non-Balinese take part in a gamelon performance? Or when a Balinese gamelon orchestra performs for a group of tourists? In each of these situations, authenticity circulates as an arbitrating mark.

A group of tourists might well feel cheated if, having traveled to Bali, they are presented with a performance of Balinese music by non-Balinese. Yet it is important to keep in mind that this seemingly natural association of a particular people with a particular place and culture is a social and historical construct, a product, in a sense, of how anthro- pology has mapped the world, not a set of natural facts Gupta and Ferguson, It is a desire grounded in an axiological attempt to make the con- tingent non-contingent by creating the illusion of objective validity Smith, Authentic things, then, are bound up with seemingly authentic places: For example, based on my own experiences in Beijing, not only is the food served in American Chinese and Beijing restaurants different in taste, but so, too, are the aesthetic markers that mark a restaurant as Chinese: What counts as authentic, then, depends on the cul- tural lens of the seeker, which in turn guides the direction in which authentic- ity is sought Spooner, Of course, the problem is that authenticity rapidly dissolves under the most casual examination, as anyone who has traveled can attest.

Yet the desire for authenticity remains. One can argue that the West has in general located this desired authenticity in the past, both in its own and that of non-Western Others, while much of the non-West has come to locate this in the present of the West Spooner, This Western focus on salvaging the past leads to a two-edged paradox.

First of all, because a more authentic cultural life is presumed to have been lost, what has been salvaged is, by the fact that authenticity has seemingly disappeared in the face of commodification, difficult to refute Clifford, Secondly, because the past is defined as more authentic precisely because it is past, the present is, by implication, presumed to be a falling away from authenticity and thus of less value and interest.

An example of this is the clash of perceptions that takes place at the Great Wall of China. This is because the Chinese Ministry of Tourism has invested significant resources into transforming Badaling into what it apparently believes a modern tourist studies 2: Conversely, the domestic tourists I have observed, traveled with, and spoken to on my own visits to Badaling as a resident, tourist, and study abroad leader have seemed largely untroubled by such concerns, concentrating instead on getting suitable pictures certifying their presence at the Wall.

  • Cultural commodification and tourism: a very special relationship

To summarize, the most authentic cultural practices and objects appear to be those that not only faithfully imitate an inherited set of practices and objects, but also are reproduced in a specific locale, by a specific type of people, and for a specific purpose, one unconnected to the market process. This last point is crucial: It is a search that privileges the spatially localized and seemingly homogeneous as the location of culture.

This mode of thinking flows throughout the anthropological critique of tourism. Tourism is bad because it corrupts culture; it transforms what has been sacred into the merely profane; it cheapens the ritualistic, transforming what was authentic into spectacle. Yet, importantly, these charges obscure a crucial reality: In other words, there is no original moment; there are no ethnic Others who have existed in a never-never land, segregated in both time and space.

Instead, there have always been those who have come before — if not always tourists, then missionaries, traders, political agents, explorers, and anthropologists Oakes, Indeed, the whole notion of an original moment is quite problematic.

Certain restaurants and bars have become con- temporary markers of authenticity, based as much on their age and the fact that they do not belong to a chain as on their quality.

Indeed, during this time of rapid social and economic change, when both time and space have been com- pressed, longevity as much as originality has become the primary marker of authenticity. They argue that capitalism has transformed culture into an industry, one which churns out cultural products characterized by predictability and homo- geneity and designed to support social conformity and control.

Consumption, both cultural and otherwise, is said to operate as a form of manipulation. Not only is this argument implicitly elitist and culturally conservative, it is also exceedingly reductionist, transforming the question of consumption into the fact of commodification.

By doing so it leaves no space for further questions precisely because it claims to have all the necessary answers Storey, It carries off this operation by presuming an opposition between authentic creativity, framed as dynamic, heroic and singular, and inauthentic commodity consumption, framed as passive, uninspired, banal and superficial. In addition, this Frankfurt position implicitly assumes that certain objects do not circulate as commodities.

For example, the gift act as described by Mauss has often been framed as dichotomous to commodity exchange as described by tourist studies 2: However, what this logocentric stance ignores is the fact that calculative intent is always present in exchange of any type cf.

In other words, rather than categorizing objects and, by implication, experiences as either commodities or non-commodities — that is, as either profane or sacred in terms of cultural practices and their related objectsor as inauthentic or authentic in terms of material objects of production — we might more usefully view all objects and experiences as potential commodities. Similarly, early cultural studies practitioners such as Raymond Williams and Richard Hoggart could argue for the worth and value of the everyday lived experiences of the working and rural classes redefined as popular culture in contrast to both elitist Arnoldian notions of Culture and the inauthentic mass con- sumption culture critiqued by the Frankfurt School.

A case in point is the impact tourism has on cultural objects and traditions. As already noted, one common critique asserts that tourism increases the demand for cheap copies of authentic art, leading to a desacralization of what once had been pure or whole.

Yet without something that can be deemed inau- thentic, the notion of authentic or sacred art no longer carries any meaning. Far from being a sign of deficiency or lack, these secondary terms constitute what is normally seen as a pure whole. That tourism does stimulate such a demand is certainly a valid point.

Yet, as already noted, a paradox results: From a local perspective, these may have little to do with each other. Related to this point is the fact that seemingly straight- forward categories of real and fake or sacred and profane may not be as clear- cut as they first appear. Indeed, the fake may at times be a more real copy of the real, one so perfect as to be impossibly real, and hence desirable in itself.

Conversely, a copy may be so impossibly fake that it becomes desired for this fakeness. In other cases, a copy may have assumed an importance that negates any privileging of an authentic original. Finally, the question of cultural authenticity looms large in situations in which state authorities have attempted to use tourism as a tool for state-build- ing by promoting the aesthetic aspects of cultural display while attempting to control the social relations of culture cf.

This becomes highly problematic in a society such as Bali, one in which tourism, having been present for such a long period of time, is best characterized as operating within, not on, local society.

Authenticity and commodification in changing tourism trends

Hence the question to be asked in this case is not how tourism has impacted local culture, but rather how it has helped, and continues to help, shape this Picard, There are, then, situations in which no existing criteria, either cultural or lin- guistic, exist for easily distinguishing between Western categories of the non- comodified sacred and comodified profane. This in turn illustrates once again the arbitrariness of supposedly natural distinctions between original and copy, sacred and profane, and authentic and inauthentic.

Commodification within the sphere of culture is a social fact. However, in speaking of this in the context of tourism, we should not be satisfied with simply charting its progress and then lamenting what has been lost, since to do so inevitably traps us in a desire for a more-perfect and always-lost past.

In other words, what is needed is less focus on identifying what has been commodified tourist studies 2: Moving beyond the question of commodification does not mean that one thereby needs to either embrace the rhetoric of the global market or romanticize resistance against a global hegemonic order.

Instead, accepting commodification as a starting point allows different questions to arise, questions that revolve around the ways in which people make meaning in their lives within the world of tourism.

This first spark of interest led to a roundtable discussion on tourism at the American Anthropology Association meetings, which in turn served as a basis for a later collection of papers edited by Valene Smith and published as Hosts and Guests: The Anthropology of Tourism Subsequently, three major reviews of tourism literature appeared in the field in the s: Anthropologists who have touched on the relationship of anthropology to tourism include Dumont Of course, this leads to a paradox: In the Manuscripts, Marx argued that a direct relationship exists between the production of material objects and the degree of alienation workers suffer from the product of their labor: Whether commodification, from this perspective, is Shepherd Commodification, culture and tourism intrinsically wrong from what Marx believed was a scientific standpoint, or from a moral standpoint, is another question.

Money for Marx, with its encouragement of greed, envy, hoarding and avarice, was the root of all evil, just as it was for another prominent German, Martin Luther whom he cited with approval cf. C-M constitutes a sale, M-C a purchase. That is, while commodity circulation begins with a sale C-M and ends with a purchase M-Cthe circulation of money begins with a purchase M-C and ends with a sale C-M — in other words, capital accumulation.

Hosts and Guests []: The original research for this article was conducted in Two linguistically different yet related sources can be identified for his choice of adjectives. First, as authenticity is a subjective concept, its staging cannot always be recognised by tourists Connell, In most cases, culture is staged to satisfy tourists in order to create an income for host populations.

It is therefore commodified. This process of culture commodification is not without consequences, which have been repeatedly discussed in the academic literature Cohen, ; Cole, ; Edensor, ; Fesenmaier and MacKay, ; George and Reid, ; Green, ; Medina, ; Steiner and Reisinger, The question of ethics in the search for authenticity can therefore be raised. In the words of MacCannell Since the criteria of [object] authenticity are imposed by western perspectives, the ethical nature of such a quest can be questioned with regards to thepower imbalance involved, particularly when the impacts of staging authenticity and culture commodification are considered.

Extensive academic literature exists on the impacts of staging authenticity on tourist satisfaction Connell, ; Pearce and Moscardo, ; Wang, However this review is primarily concerned with the impacts on host populations. Various positive impacts of culture commodification on hosts in tourism destinations have been noted by academics Cohen, ; Cole, ; Edensor, ; Green, ; Medina, One of those impacts relates to the preservation of host cultures and traditions.

By giving them an economic value, commodifying cultures motivates locals to revive, preserve and reconfirm belief in tradition for future generations Cohen, ; Cole, ; Edensor, ; Medina, In that sense, commodifying culture does not destroy it, but simply changes it overtime Cohen, The benefits of commodifying cultures has also been acknowledged beyond its economic aspect and considered for its power to generate pride for locals.

Cole argues that tourism works as an authenticating agent generating a sense of self pride and identity for locals in marginalised primitive societies that have been labelled as isolated and backwards by their own society and government, while Green argues the worth of tourism to generate pride in host societies at a national level.

Commodification, culture and tourism | robert shepherd -

Bruner also argues the sense of self hosts can gain through tourism, by displaying a culture they are proud of to the western world. However, Bianchinias cited in Steiner and Reisinger, argues that there are tensions between the use of culture for economic purposes and community identity expression in tourism settings.

Such tensions mainly lie in the limits host populations put on what can be staged and commodified. Cole found that some host populations disagree with the idea of staging sacred, religious rituals for tourists, whilst staging other cultural performances such as dance displays is acceptable.

The literature also deals with the use of staged authenticity as a resistance tool used by locals in an attempt to limit the negative impacts of culture commodification and re-establish some balance in host guest-power relationships. This happens by staging what Goffmanin MacCannell, has described as front regions [in which hosts and tourists meet] in order to make them appear as back regions [where tourists are normally not present], thereby protecting the true back regions from tourists.

Some host communities use staged authenticity to prevent direct contact with outsiders Buck, as cited in Pearce and Moscardo, ,since they see tourists as shallow and therefore not truly seeking authenticity Maoz, In such societies, the possibility that a stranger might enter a back region is a source of concern MacCannell, Connell indeed explains that the inauthentic nature of staged performances can be perceived by tourists, who will then attempt to enter the back regions of the destination to fulfil their quest for authenticity.

This issue is raised by Fesenmaier and MacKay who explain that locals often have to live a lie generated by false realities created by western societies, and thereby see their culture robbed of its authenticity. Boorstin, as cited in Steiner and Reisinger, argues that hosts cannot be authentic since they must conform to tourist expectations, and see their culture distorted. Eventually, host society structures are changed as a result from the corrosive effect of culture commodification, and the traditional culture may even die and be reborn in the form of a new culture created based on the [western defined] icons of the traditional one George and Reid, Although the academic literature surrounding the topics of authenticity and culture commodification is broad, some considerations have been given insufficient attention.

As previously stated, it widely considers how change and development in the sense of modernity and industrialisation in host societies can affect the success and attractiveness of the tourism product in developing countries. It also examines the extent to which tourism hinders the potential for host societies to develop and modernise themselves, but it frequentlymerely takes into account the participants in the tourism industry.

MacCannell quotes Goffman Nevertheless, tourists are still on this quest for authenticity, but the western criteria defining it have changed since the origins of the academic discussion on authenticity. Poverty has only been recently recognised as part of the tourist quest for authenticity. Poverty tourists indeed seeks to explore the less visited parts, or back regions of the developing world Mowforth and Munt, Additionally, slums, favelas and townships are relevant to the definition of object authenticity as they represent the real, genuine life of the destination.

Meschkank has indeed revealed that the quest for authenticity constitutes a central motivation for poverty tourism, and concludes that authenticity and poverty are closely related.