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Enchantment        (Plen1)

Location Henry Thomas Room
Date and Time 10th April, 2007 at 14:30


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Short Abstract

Papers by Tom Selwyn, Annika Rabo, and John Hutnyk.

Long Abstract

The tourist industry is fuelled by ideas, values, and symbolic structures the purposes of which, to use a term of considerable interest to anthropologists in other contexts (Pinney and Thomas, 2001) are to enchant: to attract, to shape imaginations, interpretations, and memories - and otherwise to enhance processes of cognitive and emotional transformations. Whilst tourist brochures and guide- books may not quite belong to the realm of the classical sorcerer, there are clearly magical elements present in tourist ‘ways of seeing’ and being. Mark Twain’s (1871) journeys to the Holy Land are well known for being steeped in his own romantic visions and preconceived notions of what the place should look and feel like. Generations of travellers, from those on the Grand Tour to more contemporary independent and mass tourists, are heirs to the tradition of enchanted experience that he, amongst others, developed.

On a rather different level anthropological studies of hospitality suggest that hosts routinely work to enchant their guests. The contexts of hospitality may vary: from traditional marriage feasts held to reinforce the union of bride, groom and their two families (Kanafani, 1983) to contemporary reception parties given by operators and their representatives in resort hotels to promote in their tourist guests a sense of well being and a disposition to eat, drink, and spend (Andrews, 2007). In these and other cases hosts seek to enchant by, for example, deploying such party staples as good food, sweet perfumes, fashionable clothes, and music to evoke heightened senses amongst their guests of taste, smell, touch and sound. This points us back to the ritualistic nature of hospitality, as other aspects of tourism too, and reminds us of Hocart’s (1952) famous claim about the ‘divinity’ of guests.

The aim of this plenary is to identify and describe the way that tourism as a whole is framed by enchantment and theoretically to contextualise this in relation to the late capitalist and ‘disenchanted’ (Bourdieu, 1972) world in which it operates.

Chair: Dimitrios Theodossopoulos
Discussant: Jonathan Skinner


The political economy of Enchantment: formations in the anthropology of tourism

Author(s): Tom Selwyn (SOAS)


This paper seeks to define the nature of the anthropology of tourism, seeking to distinguish it from approaches to the topic by other social scientific disciplines. It thus traces the emergence of the field from the early days, suggesting ways in which it is rooted in, and related to, larger fields of anthropological interest in travel, mobility of various kinds, and practices (such as hospitality) that are an integral part of most kinds of travel. Considerable emphasis is given to five seminal ethnographic monographs that focus on tourism, the aim being to identify their common points of focus. It follows this by looking at a select collection of recent anthropological work in the field on a variety of subjects ranging from studies of land and landscapes, tourist related maps, objects, images, and the body, in order to speculate about the present state of the subject as well as some of its possible future directions. The principle theoretical and analytical tool throughout is the notion of enchantment. Part of aim of the paper as a whole is to consider how the anthropology of tourism contributes to the body of anthropological work on the theoretical uses of this notion. However, processes of enchantment are always found in politico-economic contexts: a fact that is held in mind throughout.

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Enchanted space and prosaic place: touristic and native visions of the bazaar in Aleppo

Author(s): Annika Rabo (Stockholm University)


The bazaar in Aleppo, Syria is the largest covered market in the Middle East. It is still central to the economy of the city. Large-scale traders, small-scale shopkeepers, industrial workshop-owners, ambulant food-sellers, customers, and spectators mix and mingle in the covered market. The old city of Aleppo, where the market is situated, is on UNESCOs world heritage list, and infrastructural development and urban rehabilitation is taking place in the bazaar, partly to attract Western tourists. The old market is packaged and sold as a tourist site by underlining its 'authentic, ancient and unspoiled' ambiance. But the people making a living in the market do not support such claims, unless they can make money on it. They care about the bazaar because this is where others like them meet and work. In this presentation the tension between 'enchanted space' and 'prosaic place' will be explored in relation to the new emphasis on tourism in Aleppo. Whilst the ‘natives’ of the market may seem to tourists to be very rooted in this place, they typically have vast networks to many parts of the world, making, in fact, most tourists parochial and local.

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Revolutionary tourism: souvenirs of Everest

Author(s): John Hutnyk (Goldsmiths College, University of London)


The double visage of South Asia abroad is fantasy and sensation. On the one hand, the Hindi film glitz or traditional exotica of temples, rich fabrics, and pantomime handlebar moustaches. On the other, disaster, war, cotton-clad politicians discussing nuclear weaponry, Maoists, and pantomime handlebar moustaches. This doubled representation follows an ideological investment that eases and erases imperial guilt. From afar, it is clear (the wish is) that the vibrancy (temples, fabric) of South Asia has not been destroyed despite the (rarely or reluctantly acknowledged) impact of 300 plus years of colonialism and more recent structural adjustment programmes. Reassured by tourist brochures and travel reports that most of the temples and holy sites remain, the disasters are attributed to contemporary dysfunctions: poverty, corruption, mismanagement and revolutionaries. Such reasoning, sometimes explicit, affirms that South Asia's problems are South Asian, and that the departure of paternal colonial rule was perhaps premature: a self-serving ideological psychic defence, to be resolved by more 'development' aid. This paper addresses the ways a new revolutionary tourism trades on the same (the same?) double aspect - the exotic charge of 'alternative travel' means meeting with the Maoist adds a frisson of excitement to what was by now a standard brochure scenario. The Maoists themselves take part in this representation game - Everest turns Red. I have a Communist Party of Nepal souvenir visa stamp to prove it (1000 rupees).

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