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Tourists: Tourism in the Balinese Borderzone

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Tourists: Tourism in the Balinese Borderzone

Raised Questions

In this essay, Bruner gives the reality of tourism in a way that many tourists or rather tourist companies and agencies fail to mention to the tourists. Throughout the essay, the author tries to analyze various questions or highlight several problematic areas that are encountered in the tourist industry. For example, are the cultural practices shown to the tourists every time they turn up, real or are they just displayed for the occasion? Are the advertisements about the undiscovered and unspoiled by civilization places real or are they just marketing strategies? What are the borderzones like when there are no tourists around?

Central Argument

Bruner’s main argument is that, “borderlands should be regarded, not as analytically empty transitional zones but as sites of creative cultural production…and as sites of struggle” (159). According to the author, the borderzone (as far as tourism is concerned) is a “creative space, festive liberated zone, one that anthropology should investigate and not denigrate” (160).

The tourists encounter a different tourism experience different from what the ethnographers encounter.

Argument Paraphrased and Discussed

The tourists have this image in their minds concerning the developing countries. For example, Bali is seen as a country that has not been polluted by civilization, inhabited by primitive people who live in the ancient traditional ways. The people in the African countries are projected as people who live amongst wildlife and poverty, waiting for the white man to come and liberate them. Moreover, the tourists imagine that these people in the developing countries will stop their daily chores and go to dance for the tourists upon their arrivals. Since this is what these tourists imagine, this is what they are given.

Bruner states that the tourists get what they had imagined because the people in these destination countries know what they (tourists) want. The ‘authentic’ culture, which includes the traditional wear and dances, are specifically done because of the tourists. Otherwise, some of these practices being exhibited stopped being performed back in the colonial or pre-colonial days. As the author puts it, it is not about identity display but rather it is about tourism as an economic activity.

As Bruner takes as through an Indonesian experience in a place called Bali, one understands the differences in the two realities of the tourism industry. One sees what is presented to the tourists and what actually takes place when the tourists are not around. He also highlights on the impact these whole experiences have on the tourists. For example, after the Balinese tour, the author asked a tourist to comment on the whole experience. To answer his question, the tourist said that the experience was thrilling. This is despite the fact that some of the cultural representations were no longer being followed in the post-colonial times. In conclusion, the author states, “Postmodern complexities occur not only in the centers of Western power but also in postcolonial borderzone on the periphery, in what used to be the pure authentic preserve of ethnographic science” (177).

Examples

The issues highlighted in Bruner’s work can be experienced in today’s movies especially those either shot in Africa or based on African stories. For example, “Mr. Bones”, a 2001 movie directed by Gray Hofmeyr, depicts certain characteristics of Africans, which do not take place in real life situations. For example, they depict Africans as primitive people who have no sense of civilization or technology and who greet each other in very funny way. The uncivilized people of this village greet each other by slapping each other on the temples and colliding with each other’s foreheads.

A friend of mine who had taken a trip to Kenya, an East African country confirmed to me that the traditional dances made by the Africans in front of the tourists rarely take place in the real communities. He was told this by his host, a Kenyan citizen. This dances no longer take place due to the influence of westernization, civilization and the lack of time. The safaris of Kenya are only done by tourists, and Animals in this area do not practically live amongst the people as it is usually depicted during the tourism tours. In tourism, it is a matter of what the tourists want to see and not what actually takes place.

Reference

Bruner, E. (1996). “Tourism in the Balinese Borderzone” Displacement, Diaspora, and Geographies of Identity. Ed. Lavie, S. & Swedenburg, T. Duke University Press.

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