ASA11: Vital powers and politics: human interactions with living things

University of Wales Trinity Saint David, 13/09/2011 – 16/09/2011

(P12)

Gazing at the game: the anthropology of tourists' wild-animal encounters

Location Room 4
Date and Start Time 15 Sep, 2011 at 14:30

Convenor

Tamas Regi (Keimyung University)  email
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Short Abstract

This panel aims to understand encounters between tourists and wild animals. We expect that the papers will help to shed light on the rarely researched question of why Western tourists seek to experience otherness in the wilderness and on their fascination with the animals within it.

Long Abstract

The history of wild-game watching, especially in Africa, has parallels with colonial travellers. 'Explorers', officers, professional hunters, wealthy travellers and later mass tourists all had contact with wild animals, and connecting to the local wildlife was always important in travel accounts. Travelogues, popular hunting stories and tourist brochures have always dealt with the human-animal relationship, either implicitly or explicitly. Therefore the question unavoidably emerges: what is the seductive force of wild animals for Western travellers in non Western countries? How does this image fit into the wider semiotic frame of postmodern tourist attractions?

We expect that anthropological case studies will provide insight into how wild animals encapsulate the wilderness in many tourists' imaginations. At the moment, the majority of wild game-watching tours take place in the African continent; however, we are happy to receive papers from non-African fieldwork scholars. Possible topics are: the history of recent wild game watching; the structure and semiotics of the encounters between tourists and wild animals; how wild game play the same role in tourism encounters as other spectacles such as buildings, festivals, other objects or people; how tourists 'capture' animals with their camera; how tourists narrate their ideas about wild animals; why tourists are fascinated by wild animals; and what is the tourists' perception of risk on safari.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Hunting the wild 'Other' to become a Man

Author: Rachel Ben David (Ben Gurion University of the Negev) email
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Short Abstract

This paper aims to understand the encounters between Israeli tourists and wild animals. This local phenomenon, which bears elements of a rite of passage in the context of watching wild animals, may shed light on the global practice of the Safari tourism industry.

Long Abstract

As part of a growing Western tourism industry, organized Safari tours to East African countries from Israel are gaining momentum. Like their partners throughout the world, Israeli middle-upper class tourists seek to experience otherness in the wilderness. They are fascinated with the realization of their imagination of wild animals, and consequently eager to "capture the moments" with their legal weapons, cameras.

This paper will be concerned with the coming into being of the unique Israeli phenomenon: Bar/Bat Mitzvah safari tours to Africa. Apparently, Israel is the only country in the world where organized safari groups to Africa have evolved into 'family tours'. This 'family celebration' includes several families of (grand)parents and (grand)children, who mark the transitional period of girls' and boys', 12th or 13th birthdays with organized group tours to Africa. In the journey, teenagers encounter issues such as survival, aggressions, death and fears, which are rooted in the gaze constructed by social agents such as National Geographic. The Safari becomes a symbolic rite of passage, into which parents' African dreams are united. In the liminal 9-day space of the safari, the wild becomes a performing stage for parents to "visit" childhood practices, while teenagers undergo a maturing experience in which they practice adulthood. Apparently, both reencounter each other and themselves within a framework of suppressed aggressive instincts evoked while watching wild animals and captured by cameras. Based on anthropological research including participation-observation, and interviews with tourists, I intend to address human-non human interactions with a unique particular perspective.

Sundowner Theatre: animal/human spatial and performative relationships at the rest camp waterhole

Author: Mark Haywood (University of Cumbria) email
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Short Abstract

In game viewing seemingly ‘natural’ spaces are reconfigured to visitor expectations. Many visitors to re-wilded game parks in Southern Africa are unaware that the so-called ‘reserve’ (a term that implies some sort of environmental preservation) has been recently fabricated out of farmland that is being allowed to revert to some form of what Peterken (1996) termed an ‘earlier condition’. Easily viewable ‘wild spaces’ are created and although plausible and ‘natural’ if viewed from a rest-camp lounger, are as formally constructed as any other aspect of a game reserve. It is argued these settings evoke the formal proscenium arch of Western theatre.

Long Abstract

In game viewing seemingly 'natural' spaces are reconfigured to visitor expectations. Many visitors to re-wilded game parks in Southern Africa are unaware that the so-called 'reserve' (a term that implies some sort of environmental preservation) has been recently fabricated out of farmland that is being allowed to revert to some form of what Peterken (1996) termed an 'earlier condition'. Easily viewable 'wild spaces' are created and although plausible and 'natural' if viewed from a rest-camp lounger, are as formally constructed as any other aspect of a game reserve. It is argued these settings evoke the formal proscenium arch of Western theatre.

Finding the wild in an urban setting

Author: Diana Kerr (University of Wales, Trinity St David) email
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Short Abstract

Western travellers do not necessarily have to venture to non-Western countries to encounter the seductive force of interaction with wild animals. Spain’s bull running festivals are an alternative tourist destination which encompasses all facets of the wild animal-human experience.

Long Abstract

Although traditionally wild animal tours have been in Africa, they are not limited to the Dark Continent. Spain's bull running festivals have enjoyed a rise in tourism. Western travellers do not have to venture to non-Western countries to interact with wild animals. What draws the Western tourist to these destinations: the animal-human experience and its direct interaction; a conquering of the beast without the personal kill; or the romantic ideal or imagery of the danger? Spain's bull running festivals meet all these.

One might even argue that participation in the Spanish bull running is a form of replacement for the big game hunting safari tours of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The urban location of the wild animal-human encounter in Spain creates a particular liminality in a normal setting. The attendant festivities which accompany the bull running are a draw as well, as they provide alternative entertainment for others not participating in the running.

Why do people choose Spain's bull running as opposed to an African safari? Does the choice derive from a sense of it being an overall "safe" vacation despite the possible danger from direct interaction with the bull, because the destination is comfortably exotic, or because Spain provides the modern amenities with the danger? This paper will discuss Spanish bull running as a tourist attraction focusing on the festival of Grazalema de le Sierra in Andalucia. I will analyse where Western tourists come from, what level they participate and why.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.