Course Description
Lions and Maasai, elephants and Bushmen, camels and Tuareg - Africa is seen as the continent of colorful cultures, picturesque people and thatched huts. This course introduces students to some of the key themes and debates in the anthropology of tourism, exploring the commodification of culture and nature in Africa as objects with marketable value. In this class, we ask: What is a tourist? How do hosts feel about tourists? Why do people travel for leisure to Africa? Does tourism help or hinder African development? What does the study of travel and tourism in Africa tell us about the world in which we live? Engaging with ethnographies, our approach will explore the various forms of tourism: safaris, adventure tourism, eco-tourism, dark tourism, slum tourism, roots tourism or pilgrimage, volunteerism and study abroad, romance and sex tourism, medical tourism and touring poverty. Examining relations between ‘hosts’ and ‘guests’ - tour operators, guides, ‘experts’, tourists and local populations - we will focus on the possibilities, problems and challenges presented by tourism in North, South, Central, East and West Africa. We will investigate the historical, political, economic, social and cultural contexts in which African countries, communities, and individuals articulate and sell notions of the ‘Other’, ‘exotic’, ‘tradition’, ‘authenticity’ and ‘indigeneity’, as well as the ways the ‘tourist gaze’ produces and reproduces notions of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality and desire. We will also consider regional and domestic tourism, including the reasons why African tourists rarely visit their own country, and the ‘post-tourist’, namely, the idea physical travel can be replaced by the virtual. Students will be asked to reflect upon and theorize their own tourist experiences.