EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution

(P088)

The technologies and techniques of guiding: tour guides as cultural mediators

Location T-307
Date and Start Time 31 July, 2014 at 14:00

Convenors

Jackie Feldman (Ben Gurion University of the Negev) email
Jonathan Skinner (University of Roehampton) email
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Short Abstract

We invite papers examining the mediators of the tourism contact zone, especially tour guides. What are the problems and complexities of this position as staged, played out and (mis/auto)represented by the tour guide? How are they shaped by power relations and new technologies of representation?

Long Abstract

Besides serving as a major generator of revenue in the world economy and as a source of income for local and indigenous communities, tourism has become a venue for significant intercultural contact. Such contacts have often served to perpetuate power relations inherent in colonialism and Orientalist understandings, but they may also establish relations of intimacy, respect and mutuality. This panel examines the mediators of these spaces, specifically the tour guide.

What is the position of tour guides in this process? How do they foster or stage this engagement? As cultural mediators, cosmopolitans, leaders, father figures and pathfinders, the tour guide negotiates a complex terrain of physical mobility and virtual and existential imagination. How do they overcome the economic, psychological, social or linguistic disjuncts between guests and hosts? How do their performances negotiate the economic and political interests of states, tour operators, and the guides themselves? How do recent developments in technologies and techniques of representation - from simple 'schtick' and microphone use to sophisticated use of electronic media, from company branding to indigenous self-advertising - play out in the contact zone? And what is the impact of the tour guide's actions and (auto-)representations on the visitor, the visited and themselves? The anthropological shift in conceptualizing the tourism encounter from one of host and guest to a focus on the mediators of tourism develops our understanding of the tourism frontier area. This panel welcomes further scrutiny, be it structural, visual and technological, reflexive, legal and political, sociocultural, economic or sensual.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Male tour guides tracking along ethnic and gender boundaries in Peruvian tourism

Author: Annelou Ypeij (CEDLA)  email

Short Abstract

In Peru, male mestizo guides take a powerful position towards the communities they visit with tourists. They negotiate with the locals about commissions and notions of authenticity. They may take a paternalistic, even disdainful, attitude towards the locals even when tourists are around.

Long Abstract

In Peru, tourism is often organized through guided excursions. Though female guides work on these excursions, male guides form the majority. This paper deals with the contacts that urban male mestizo guides from Cusco and Puno create between local, often Quechua speaking, populations and - national and international - tourists. It is based on frequent field work and visits during a ten years' time span. Guides are in the potent position to decide to which community, shop, workshop or restaurant the tourists should go to. They search for those sites and places that offer in their view an authentic experience. Needless to say that commissions also play an important role and the guides negotiate these issues constantly with the local tourism workers. As an expression of their powerful position, the guides may take a paternalistic, and even disdainful, attitude towards the locals even when tourists are around. The tourists are shown an authenticity and ethnic and gender performances that are convenient to the guides, but which are not necessarily in accordance with how the locals wish to present themselves. The locals develop strategies to become more independent from guides from outside their communities. As income from tourism is increasing and a growing number of communities are sending their youngsters to study and specialize in tourism, more and more indigenous guides are being trained. This may improve the relationships between guides, tourists and locals and offer more freedom to the latter to represent themselves as they wish.

Hosts, guests and "blood brothers" on an Indian frontier: ecotourism as a mode of political and cultural encompassment in the nation-state

Author: Suchismita Das (University of Chicago)  email

Short Abstract

Tourism on national frontiers bring mainland guests in contact with indigenous hosts. The state may thereby try to hegmonically encompass outliers in a national imaginary. How do guides frame and mediate this contact? Thus, do they thwart, forward or modify the quest for spatializing nation-states?

Long Abstract

State/quasi-state institutions are now promoting ecotourism along India's north-eastern frontier. 'Pristine' mountainous terrains inhabited by indigenous communities, whose cultural-political histories differ from the mainland, make for a volatile hegemony of the nation-state here. Ostensibly ecotourism brings conservation and development. However it has potential to fulfill the state's imperative of territorial encompassment of frontiers, if the moment of contact with mainland tourists can be framed as fulfilling India's nation-building motto of 'unity in diversity'. How do the everyday practices of a tour-guide in negotiating this contact thwart, forward or modify this quest for routinizing the state imaginary in geography and public consciousness?

Tashi Lepcha, a guide from an indigenous community which till 1975 was a semi-autonomous kingdom under India's protection, was conducting tourists from the Indian plains on a birding trip. On a difficult terrain, a visitor slipped off a cliff and Tashi pulled him back from imminent death. This forged a special bond - both parties using fictive kinship terms to express the intensity of the encounter. I inquire into the specific idiom of "blood brotherhood" in which Tashi frames this encounter. Tracing its genealogy to the origin myth of the pre-colonial state, I unpack the value of fictive kinship terms in idealizing subject's relations to each other and the state. What value did this idiom have in legitimizing the pre-colonial state formed by the banding of diverse mountain communities and how (and how effectively) is this value transmuted in present state-making moments, through the mediating role of tourism and tour-guides?

Tour guides in suspicion: tourism and contemporary legends in Eastern Indonesia

Author: Adriana Kábová (Charles University in Prague)  email

Short Abstract

Tourists in the island Sumba are often the targets of rumors about white bloodthirsty foreigners. The aim of this paper is to explore the role of tour guides, who are often seen as allies of dangerous foreigners by Sumbanese people. Guides' techniques for avoiding possible conflicts will be examined.

Long Abstract

Contemporary legends linked to construction sacrifice myths and electronic phantasms are widely described in Southeast Asia. In the island Sumba in Eastern Indonesia a tourist might be seen as "penyamun" - the main character of these rumors, a person, whose aim is to get heads, blood or body parts of Sumbanese people. Moreover, the word "toris" has a twofold meaning. Besides a common term for a tourist it is also used as a synonym for "penyamun" in Sumba. This paper will focus on the role of local guides, who are often seen as allys of unpredictable tourists. Sumbanese guides have to handle with accusations and sometimes even with ostracism because of their involvement in tourism.

Moved to tears: everyday life banalities into kitchen ethnography

Author: David Picard (University of Lausanne)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on ethnographic research on tour guides in the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion, the paper explores how everyday life banalities are assembled into deeply moving stories.

Long Abstract

Drawing on ethnographic research on tour guides in the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion, the paper explores how everyday life banalities are assembled into deeply moving stories. Through our focus on what we call "kitchen ethnography", we will discuss the evocative power of metaphors in tour guide performances and the connections they enable between representational and embodied forms of knowledge and learning. Moreover, kitchen ethnography becomes a good starting point to return to the discussion on the very boundaries between ethnography and story-telling, and vice and versa.

Strategic guiding: the role of tour guides in the commercial staging of contested places

Author: Athinodoros Chronis (California State University, Stanislaus)  email

Short Abstract

This paper introduces strategic guiding as purposeful, politically-minded practice of place-making, provides insight on the mediating role of tour guides as frontline strategists, and unpacks the sets of strategies they employ in institutionalizing contested sites as particular tourism destinations.

Long Abstract

Place, as a portion of space invested with meaning, is subject to multiple interpretations according to particular interests and ideological positions of concerned publics. Its rhetorical and imaginative construction, therefore, epitomizes a process that is fundamentally unstable, contested, and political. The present paper addresses a particular niche in the politics of place-making by examining the role of tour guides in the commercial staging of contested tourism destinations. I am concerned about the way in which guides take into consideration, choreograph, and conduct tourism mobilities in a specific way that supports particular ideological positions while excluding others. I draw empirical evidence from battlefield tours with licensed guides at an American Civil War battlefield. Particular attention is paid to the ways in which tour guides interpret the site, employ space, and, most importantly, orchestrate movement within the national park. Data analysis is informative about commercial efforts to historicize the landscape through strategies of spatialization, locate tourists within the historicized space through strategies of emplacement, and control movement through strategies of regulation. The employment of nationalistic language, the embodied entanglement of tourists within the historicized space, and the orchestration of movement through scripted itineraries are seen as official practices of institutionalization of the site as a patriotic landscape of national significance. This paper introduces strategic guiding as a purposeful, politically-minded practice of place-making, provides insight on the mediating role of tour guides as frontline strategists, and unpacks the sets of strategies they employ in institutionalizing contested sites as particular tourism destinations.

The tour guide's journey to authenticity: Temple Mount, Jerusalem

Author: Yemima Cohen (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)  email

Short Abstract

By using heritage sites around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem which focus on the memory of the Temple I present three different methods by which the tour guide performance is used to construct authenticity despite of clear absence.

Long Abstract

How does one construct authenticity in the face of absence? By using heritage sites around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem which focus on the memory of the Temple, I present three different methods by which the tour guide performance is used to construct authenticity despite of clear absence.

The first method is exemplified by the Western Wall Heritage Tunnels; authenticity is built around experience and is based on emotions and the visitors' identity. The tour guides are trained to enhance their own emotional connection to the site and promote that feeling within visitors. Among the technique used, one may find body performance such as kissing the Western Wall and crying next to it.

The second, exemplified by Davidson Center, is authenticity constructed around the use of objects; this method combines archaeological relics and academic jargon. Using computer-based virtual reality program the tour guides explain the archaeological findings from a scholarly perspective which is emotionally detached.

The third method is authenticity of the future, manifested by The Temple Institute. The vessels on display are presented as authentic as they will be used in the Third Temple once it will be built. Achieving this future is based on the preservation of traditional knowledge. Therefore, the guided tour is based on memorizing and precise narrating of that knowledge. The tour is a confirmation ritual in which knowledge is transformed back and forth between the guide the group, giving it a symbolic existence in reality.

The Body Politics, Political Tourism and Embodied Tour Guiding in Belfast

Author: Jonathan Skinner (University of Roehampton)  email

Short Abstract

This paper looks at the choreography of the political tour of West Belfast run by ex-combatants. It focuses upon the technology of the body to guide and perform an audience walking through the streets.

Long Abstract

This paper looks at the choreography of the political tour of West Belfast, a traditionally nationalist enterprise run by ex-combatants. It focuses upon the technology of the body to guide and perform an audience walking through the streets: attention is paid to the voice and rhetorics of the tour from initial rapport to marshalling errant tourists, to engaging the public, and establishing closure at the end of the tour; the use of space on the street demarcating a mobile performance arena around the tour guide supported by props; and the mannerisms of the guide performing their tour, in this case, former Blanketmen who have an aura of authenticity in their delivery as they physically evoke the struggle to survive their incarceration in the HMP The Maze/Long Kesh clothed only in blankets. This case is contextualized in the tour guiding literature and supports an embodied and performative anthropology of tourism where the body continues to be the main frame of reference for both the tourist and the tour guide.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.