Tourism, Gender and Ethnicity in West New Britain

McGavin, Kirsten (2007). Tourism, Gender and Ethnicity in West New Britain PhD Thesis, School of Social Science, University of Queensland.

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Author McGavin, Kirsten
Thesis Title Tourism, Gender and Ethnicity in West New Britain
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Science
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2007
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Abstract/Summary Tourism is often presented as a positive long term sustainable method of development (especially in third world countries) that does not destroy the environment as might other forms of development (such as logging and mining). However, the impacts of tourism are not always positive in relation to Indigenous cultural practices, with pressures from within the tourism industry placing emphasis on cultural ‘authenticity’, which in turn may rely on the stagnation of ‘culture’. Conversely, foreign based conservation goals linked to some forms of international tourism pressure ‘cultural’ change where customary practices are perceived to negatively impact on the environment. Furthermore, current forms of tourism in Papua New Guinea do not help to support self defined images of Indigeneity, but rather promote images of Papua New Guineans as ‘traditional’ and close to nature. The impetus for my investigation stems from Indigenous groups having identified their customary practices and distinct cultural identities as something to be proud of and worthy of maintaining. It is therefore vital to understand forms of tourism ‘development’ that may adversely impact upon them. Throughout my study, I conducted library and field research (in West New Britain province, Walindi, Kimbe and Buvussi areas), which involved interviews, conversations, participant observation, and questionnaires. I reviewed and critiqued relevant literature, including the works of Foucault (2002), Nash (1996), McClaurin (2001) Mowforth and Munt (1998), and Whorf (1956). Nash’s (1996) theory that tourism adheres to models of imperialism proved to be applicable. Tourist marketing reinforces stereotypes of Indigenous groups, exoticising and homogenising the people. Stereotypes not only give tourists an idea of what Papua New Guineans are like, but are also reflected in the attitudes to and social interactions between tourists, guests and locals. Stereotypes occasionally added to preconceived notions of ‘race’, as evident in the words and actions of some tourists I interviewed and which were contradictory to the self image of many Indigenous peoples. Yet many tourists visit West New Britain for the sole purpose of diving, and are not interested in experiencing more than a superficial dose of culture, despite their preconceived ideas about it. Furthermore, current tourism in the New Guinea Islands prioritises conservation over cultural practices. I argue that in order for tourism to be used to reinforce constructions of Indigenous identities, recognition needs to be given to ‘race’ and gender issues within the tourism industry. Education of locals, staff and guests that destabilises the colonialist structure of relationships within tourism, and supports local identities is needed. Dual naming and the considered use of local languages could not only strengthen and raise the importance of local languages, but could also strengthen cross-cultural relationships. Further, documenting customary practices and accepting emerging customs as ‘authentic’ practices could aid people’s appreciation that no ‘culture’ is static. Indigenous peoples need to take greater control of the tourism industry to enable local people and tourists to become more aware of the cultural impact of environmental conservation.

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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 16:21:14 EST