Accepted paper:

The ghost of anthropologists past: the exotic and the uncanny in Salvador da Bahia (Brazil)


Marta Magalhaes Wallace (Cambridge University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper proposes to address the multiple ways in which the tourist industry's appropriation of past ethnographic representations of Salvador da Bahia bear on Bahians' everyday perceptions of and discourses on their city and themselves.

Paper long abstract:

Salvador da Bahia is today one of Brazil's main tourist destinations. A series of "unique features" are said to endow the city with an irresistible character. Salvador is a UNESCO World heritage site but, for most of its inhabitants, there is a lot more to its allure than meets the eye. On the first page of the governmental tourist agency website, one quickly stumbles upon a hint of what this may consist of: 'famous for its history, for the legacy left by people from other continents, for [its] religious syncretism, [Salvador] has been the object of several studies, conducted by professionals from different fields.' Anthropologists have figured prominently among the aforementioned professionals. Indeed, some have become nothing short of local celebrities— Pierre Verger being the most notorious case. That anthropologists should have flocked to the city is no coincidence: Salvador once harboured the Americas' busiest slave port and is, even now, "known" mostly for its large population of African descent's distinctive cultural makeup. However, the process whereby ethnographic representations have fed tourism stakeholders' portrayals of the city has not been properly addressed. Neither have anthropologists engaged with the mediated knowledge that feeds back onto narratives of the city by its inhabitants, who talk of its appeal in terms of it being really a tangible extension of their intangible selves. In this paper, I aim to address the distinct senses of knowing, incompatible scales (of knowledge) and orders of representation that both underpin this process and continuously reconstitute it.

panel P02
Imagineering the past: the (mis)uses of anthropology and archaeology in tourism