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Tourism as Social Contest: Opposing Local Evaluations of the Tourist Encounter

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This article provides an overview of the processes by which tourism becomes a setting for the clash of competing discourses over issues such as socioeconomic stratification, ethnicity and national identity, and democratic participation. It examines the notion that such discourses are produced through the recreation of binary oppositions such as local/outsider, traditional/modern, and authentic/commodified. These oppositions are not viewed as objective descriptions of tourist encounters, but their use in disputes among communities impacted by tourism is an ethnographic observation that deserves serious consideration. The oppositions occur in historical contexts that•are constantly shifting. They are complex and are sometimes used in a paradoxical manner. Rather than seeking to explain away such contradictions, this article views them as central to the processes by which local evaluations of the tourist location are formed. In this sense, tourist sites are experienced and constituted locally through these oppositions. The fierce debates about such concepts in the tourism context are reflective of widely felt moral and social crises. These phenomena include internal socioeconomic differentiation, problematic relations with the state, traditional power structures, moral and religious frames of reference, gender, and notions of belonging. Ethnography shows that such oppositions are recreated rhetorically by actors who are involved in these contests in a contextually shifting manner. Oppositions between different moral evaluations of tourism-mediated relations are crucial illustrations of how contemporary neoliberalism is constituted at a face-to-face level in different parts of the world.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-07-01

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  • Tourism, Culture & Communication is international in its scope and will place no restrictions upon the range of cultural identities covered, other than the need to relate to tourism and hospitality. The Journal seeks to provide interdisciplinary perspectives in areas of interest that may branch away from traditionally recognized national and indigenous cultures, for example, cultural attitudes toward the management of tourists with disabilities, gender aspects of tourism, sport tourism, or age-specific tourism.
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