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Culture on Tour

Ethnographies of Travel

Recruited to be a lecturer on a group tour of Indonesia, Edward M. Bruner decided to make the tourists aware of tourism itself. He photographed tourists photographing Indonesians, asking the group how they felt having their pictures taken without their permission. After a dance performance, Bruner explained to the group that the exhibition was not traditional, but instead had been set up specifically for tourists. His efforts to induce reflexivity led to conflict with the tour company, which wanted the displays to be viewed as replicas of culture and to remain unexamined. Although Bruner was eventually fired, the experience became part of a sustained exploration of tourist performances, narratives, and practices.

Synthesizing more than twenty years of research in cultural tourism, Culture on Tour analyzes a remarkable variety of tourist productions, ranging from safari excursions in Kenya and dance dramas in Bali to an Abraham Lincoln heritage site in Illinois. Bruner examines each site in all its particularity, taking account of global and local factors, as well as the multiple perspectives of the various actors—the tourists, the producers, the locals, and even the anthropologist himself. The collection will be essential to those in the field as well as to readers interested in globalization and travel.

312 pages | 48 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2004

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Culture Studies

Sociology: Sociology of Arts--Leisure, Sports

Travel and Tourism: Tourism and History


"The ethnographer’s gaze and that of the cultural tourist converge on the same object: the different and distant. Edward Bruner, one of our most experienced and reflective ethnographers, looks at tourists looking at everything from staged Maasai dances and prime-time Balinese temple rites to roped-off Ghanaian slave quarters and Lincoln’s made-up hometown to see what they see and what it implies for anthropological theory and interpretation. An incisive, unsettling portrayal of the ways we watch now."

Clifford Geertz | Clifford Geertz, Institute for Advanced Study

"Edward M. Bruner’s Culture on Tour: Ethnographies of Travel is a bracing compendium of anthropological essays decoding specific tourist sites. . . . Bruner’s emphasis is on complexity and process; he declines to disparage tourists as a class or to assume that local residents are objects of exploitation. He sees multiple, competing meanings in individual sites, contrasting meanings in different sites in the same country, and changes in the meaning of sites over time. . . . Bruner’s . . . fascinating book also whirls through Africa, the Middle East, and the United States, delineating what he calls ’touristic border-zones.’-real places where tourists encounter locals in performance. Tourism, for Bruner, is ’improvisational theater ... where both tourist and local are actors.’"-Julia M. Klein, Chronicle of Higher Education

Julia M. Klein | Chronicle of Higher Education

“A spirited and thoughtful volume. . . . One of Bruner’s greatest contributions is his constructivist position, from which he views cultures as continually reinventing themselves. Tourist practices are seen as neither simulacra nor ersatz, but as social performances in their own right. This position allows Bruner to free anthropologists from their previous impasse of thinking along the binary of authenticity-inauthenticity, a persistent focus of tourism scholarship ever since Dean MacCannell’s 1970s writing on ‘staged authenticity.’ Because culture is always emergent, alive, and in process, every cultural act is authentic.”

Miriam Kahn | American Anthropologist

"[Bruner’s] accounts of these investigations--including how his ’interventionist anthropology’ lost him a job as a tour guide--are absorbing, his anlysis lucid, nuanced, and free of mystifying jargon. The book is a pleasure to read."

Julie Scott | Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Culture on Tour is as much a discussion of what is at stake generally for cultural anthropology, as it adapts itself to 21st-century social life, as it is a discussion of tourism per se by one of the most knowledgeable senior scholars. . . . Looking beyond the volume’s substantial contribution to the anthropology of tourism, I recommend Culture on Tour to anyone engaged in questions concerning the future of ethnographic practice generally. Especially for those who call into question the continued viability of the ethnographic method to contemporary topics of inquiry."

Sally Ann Ness | American Ethnologist

"This eminently readable work will be of great value to scholars (at undergraduate and postgraduate levels) in the fields of anthropology, tourism studies, cultural studies, sociology, cultural geography, and to those with an interest in globalization, travel and performance. Culture on Tour is a testament to Bruner the ethnographer and Bruner the tourist/traveller, and certainly not least to Bruner the raconteur."

Kristina Jamieson | Anthropological Forum

"Not the least of Bruner’s achievements . . . is to show his readers how to think about our involvement in the immense processes of change at work in tourism. . . . For Bruner, tourism itself  is a mode of learning, and in this beautifully composed, deeply thought-provoking book he teaches by example."

Meaghan Morris | Journal of Anthropological Research

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Travel Stories Told and Retold
Part One Storytelling Rights
1. Maasai on the Lawn: Tourist Realism in East Africa
2. The Maasai and the Lion King: Authenticity, Nationalism, and Globalization in African Tourism
3. Slavery and the Return of the Black Diaspora: Tourism in Ghana
Part Two Competing Stories
4. Lincoln’s New Salem as a Contested Site
5. Abraham Lincoln as Authentic Reproduction: A Critique of Postmodernism
6. Dialogic Narration and the Paradoxes of Masada
Part Three Tales from the Field
7. The Balinese Borderzone
8. Taman Mini: Self-Constructions in an Ethnic Theme Park in Indonesia
9. Reincorporations: Return to Sumatra, 1957, 1997
Acknowledgments and Credits

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