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Conflicting Cultures of Nature: Ecotourism, Education and the Kayapo of the Brazilian Amazon

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Despite advancements in the design and implementation of ecotourism, the educational component of ecotourism has received little attention in comparison to ecological, economic and other social factors. This article discusses the unexplored conventions of education as a form of empowerment in ecotourism through the case study of a pilot ecotourism project co-managed by an ecologist, an anthropologist and a Kayapo indigenous community in Brazil. Designed as a university-level study-abroad course that holistically incorporates both a conservation biology perspective and local systems of knowledge, the pilot project provides an opportunity to consider the interdependence among the ecological, economic, educational and social consequences of one ecotourism experience, as well as to glean broader insights into the role of education in ecotourism. In particular, the intention is to look beneath the surface of assumptions about the meaning of education, asking: (1) who or what may be considered a legitimate source of information?; (2) what information is considered 'educational' in the ecotourism experience?; (3) to whom is education aimed (who are the learning targets)?; and (4) what are the objectives of education in the context of ecotourism? Based on the analysis, certain recommendations are made for reconsidering the values and goals of the endeavour.

Keywords: Brazil; Ecotourism; conservation; education; indigenous groups

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, Seattle, USA 2: Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland, Maryland, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2008

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