India's very first mass tourism movement in the sixties and seventies was south to Goa. But the middle-class Indians who went down there didn't go for the pristine beaches, the strange Portuguese-creole culture or the seafood. They went to gawk at the western tourists. They thought it fascinating to see these strange people, wearing indecent clothing, doing unusual things.
The market price for Turkish-themed Regency and Empire-style furniture has skyrocketed in recent years. Who's buying? Why, it's rich Turkish people. The gravely orientalist representations of turks and turkesses amuse today's Turks, and they feel it's part of their heritage.
Who watches the tourists? They don't exist in a vacuum. And the responses to another group's interest in your own varies greatly and can be very revealing.
Wayne posted an interesting article about the diaspora and how it influences music scenes back in the original country. But then he immediately goes on to talk (on my prompting, in one of the comments) about how little the Afro-British diaspora has influenced Jamaica, compared to the reggae-influenced (but hardly equally diasporadic) music scenes in the US, Germany and Japan. The "tourists" have had a greater influence than the "children". People sometimes seem to have a huge interest in who's watching them, and not just for economical reasons.
But that's not a complete rule either, as Wayne illustrates with the lack of any Reggaeton interest in Jamaica. Looking at something like French-speaking West Africa will yield a wide range of responses to outside interest - from pure diasporadic influences (zouk, developed in Paris), to influences from reggae (which has only slight cultural history connections to Africa but a huge spiritual one), to completely ignoring other "african-inspired" music. It's certainly not a simple matter of a definite pattern.
But the idea that people are interested in watching them and change, quantum-like, from the very act of being watched yields some fascinating results. For instance, Eartha Kitt's Uska Dara is a piece of orientalist kitch, but it became a hit in Turkey, just as the (genuinely repulsively racist) Dr. Bombay is generally appreciated by Indians. (Check the Youtube comments!) A lot of people don't mind being watched at all, it seems, even to the point of distortion. Seemingly far from any real hegemony, this impulse is perhaps genuine curiosity... or pride?
In any case, looking at tourism this way shifts the attention towards agency and people's actual experiences. As long as we're still mindful of the power structures in the world, that can sure only be a good thing.
2017 with feeling
1 week ago