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2020-2021 Colloquium Series

The Tourism Studies Working Group is pleased to present

When authenticity leads to avoidance. A microethnography of Favela-tours

Thomas Apchain, PhD Anthropology
Université d’Angers (France)

Friday, May 7, 2PM-4PM PST*
Hosted on Zoom [click here]

*Please note earlier time for this meeting, 2-4PM.

In Rio de Janeiro, favelas are marginalized spaces located on the city’s hills. However, favelas have been part of Rio as a tourist destination since the early 90s and especially in the 2010s, a time characterized by a great intensification of the tourist flow. It was then, between 2012 and 2018, that this research took place, focusing mainly on the excursions : the « Favela-tours ».

During this presentation, my goal is to discuss how favelas are presented to tourists. Rooted in the staging of a constantly renewed "openness to the tourist," the main narrative constructed by guides and tour operators make abundant use of the rhetoric of authenticity. Favelas, in this narrative, are presented to tourists as the "real Brazil" and, in a broader perspective, as places "not made for tourists". In this perspective, the strategy is one of stigma inversion, transforming the causes of historical marginalization into marks of authenticity. Having analyzed this narrative, my presentation will focus on what authenticity does to the interactions between tourists, guides and inhabitants of favelas. In doing so, my goal is to bring the discussion from authenticity - a macro analysis of one of the most discussed themes in the anthropology of tourism - to a micro level by showing how authenticity as a primary narrative drives how people interact on tours. As I will try to demonstrate, authenticity is acting on favela-tours as a vector of avoidance. Indeed, the rhetoric of authenticity is essentially working as a logic that empowers the guides and leaves the inhabitants unsure of the role they should play in the encounter. From the tourists' perspective, authenticity seems to be a narrative that separates the secular and sacred worlds and leads them to distance themselves from the locals. In this sense, it adds to the ethical and security concerns they often feel and which also leads to avoidance.

At the end of this presentation, I will outline some ideas for an ethnography that would focus on the glances exchanged by the participants in the situation. In doing so, I hope to prove that looks, gazes and glimpses are elements that can be considered by any ethnography (especially that of tourist situations). In the case of the favela-tours, the ways people look (or - most of the time - dont look) at each other contains a large part of the matrix of the situation.

Speaker Bio
Thomas Apchain is an anthropologist at the University of Angers. He earned his Phd in cultural anthropology at the University of Paris Descartes. His doctoral research focused on the development of tourism in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). He then worked on the development of equestrian tourism in France as part of a postdoctoral research team at the University of Angers. His interests include: the construction of otherness, the values of authenticity in tourism, tourism as a co-production of meaning, and the logics of territorial development linked to tourism.

Discussant Bios
Juliet Flower MacCannell (Professor Emerita, UC Irvine) is well-known analyst of culture—-literature, art and psychoanalysis—- via her many published articles on topics from Rousseau to Lacan, Joyce to Sophie Calle, Stendhal to Duras. She has published several edited collections. Her single authored books are Figuring Lacan: Criticism and the Cultural Unconscious (Routledge 1986 and 2014), The Regime of the Brother: After the Patriarchy (Routledge 1991), The Hysteric’s Guide to the Future Female Subject (Minnesota 2000) and The Time of the Sign—A Semiotic Interpretation of Modern Culture (Indiana 1982) with Dean MacCannell. She is Professor Emerita of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, where she was named Outstanding Professor Emerita in 2015, and Honorary Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study, University of London in 2009. Her method of approach to cultural analysis is the subject of her most recent article, “Why Culture? A Psychoanalytic Speculation.”

In 1973, Dean MacCannell’s (Professor Emeritus, UC Davis) article “Staged Authenticity: Arrangements of Social Space in Tourists Settings” was published in the American Journal of Sociology. It provided the first conceptual framing of the social organization of tourism and introduced the concept of authenticity into tourism studies. “Staged Authenticity” has been cited over 6000 times in the literature. His 1976 book, The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class, has never gone out of print and has been translated into 10 languages. MacCannell’s other contributions to tourism research include his books Empty Meeting Grounds—The Tourist Papers (1992), and The Ethics of Sightseeing (2011). In addition to his study of tourism, MacCannell’s research on social conditions in areas dominated by industrial-scale farming was used extensively in the 1990s to reshape federal agricultural policy.

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