The production of 'primitiveness' and identity : Surma-tourist interactions

TitleThe production of 'primitiveness' and identity : Surma-tourist interactions
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1999
AuthorsG.J. Abbink
EditorR. Fardon, R.A. van Dijk, and W.M.J. van Binsbergen
Secondary TitleModernity on a shoestring : dimensions of globalization, consumption and development in Africa and beyond
Pagination341 - 358
Date Published1999///
Place PublishedLeiden
Publication Languageeng
KeywordsAfrica, Ethiopia, identity, images, Suri, tourism

Tourism is an "advance column" of globalization and a contagious consumer identity par excellence. Tourists are the consumers of images of "authentic experience" and of "exoticism" that are carefully screened and constructed and that function as commodities. The Surma (southwest Ethiopia) - a "real primitive, untouched tribe" - are the object of such commoditized images. They themselves experience tourism as a disturbance and resent the apparent inequality of the encounter with white others. They refuse to be "signs" (of primitiveness, backwardness, tribalism) in the tourists' system of meaning which allows no reciprocity. The Surma-tourist encounter is more of a "confrontation" than a normal social interaction. So far, tourism among the Surma has not undermined their society and identity, but reinforced local values and self-esteem. However, it seems that the Surma will eventually be "made safe" for mass tourism through the noble aim of wild life protection and that their resistance to the onslaught of globalizing consumer patterns cannot last. Bibliogr., notes, ref

Citation Key1844