Tourism expectations and anthropological analogies: a view from touristic intimacies in Cuba
Valerio Simoni (The Graduate Institute, Geneva)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on ethnography of intimate encounters in touristic Cuba, the presentation reflects on relations between tourism and anthropology in terms of sensitivities, expectations, and involvement in the life-worlds of the visited ‘Others’, assessing epistemological, moral and political implications.
Paper long abstract:
Drawing on ethnography of intimate relations in touristic Cuba, the presentation uncovers some of the convergences that exist between tourism and anthropology in terms of their sensitivities, expectations, and entanglements in the life-worlds of the 'Others' they visit, study, and engage with. These convergences, and the responses they elicit from the institutional agents of tourism in Cuba and the Cuban men and women involved in intimate encounters with tourists, point towards three idealized scenarios, which alternatively portray Cuba and Cubans as virtuous victims spoiled by the neo-colonial forces in tourism and their capitalist drive towards commoditization and exploitation, as cunning subversive tricksters resisting and taking advantage of these same forces, or as mimetic agents that embrace tourism and tourists in a claim for equal membership in a better world. Rather that assessing the degree of accuracy of each of these scenarios or suggesting the primacy of one over the other, the material presented shows that it is more fruitful to think through their co-presences and competing rationales, focusing on the conditions of their emergence, and teasing out their epistemological, moral and political implications. This, in turn, foregrounds how the idealist expectations that inform our findings and interpretative horizons reverberate with those of the people we study, fostering, sometimes inadvertently, certain alliances and collaborations while hampering others. At a more general level, the arguments developed in the presentation aim to contribute to a wider reflection on the troubled relationships between anthropological utopias and other utopic endeavors, and their possible consequences.
Anthropological utopias: debating personal, political and idealist expectations in the intersection of theory and ethnographic practice