2013-2014 Colloquium Series

The Tourism Studies Working Group is pleased to announce

The Ruins of the Present In A Contested Place

Pablo Seward
BA Student, Anthropology and Psychology
University of California, Berkeley

Friday, November 15, 4:00 PM
Gifford Room, 221 Kroeber Hall
University of California, Berkeley

‘Easter Island’, a global destination for cultural tourists, is more famous for its human monoliths than for the extant Rapa Nui natives whose ancestors built and transported them. My research engages with how this landscape, rendered enigmatic after the near extinction and eventual resurgence of the indigenous population, is contested at a symbolic level today. I argue that the names “Easter Island” and “Rapa Nui” capture two spatial imaginaries historically born out and against each other to represent the same place. My ethnographic question is: How do the discourses of 1) a touristic place to which natives must conform (“Easter Island”) and 2) a native place where tourists are simply welcome (“Rapa Nui”) come into dialogue with each other? I first give a brief history of the emergence of cultural tourism in Easter Island, and interpret “Easter Island” as both the cause and effect of cultural tourism. I emphasize how outsiders formed a discourse that constructed, beginning in the 1960s, an image that makes of the island a ‘Museum Island’. I will then trace the notion of spirits as it appears in the ethnographic body about Rapa Nui. I will contend that this notion as it is signified today (with the word “varua”) emerged as a result and a response to the onset of cultural tourism. The bulk of my presentation will focus on how during my fieldwork experience Rapa Nui natives articulate varua vis-à-vis my historically overdetermined presence as a scholar-tourist. I conclude by exploring the ways this anthropological practice may allow natives to overcome the dichotomy between “Easter Island” and “Rapa Nui”.

Speaker Bio:
Pablo Seward is an undergraduate senior double majoring in Anthropology and Psychology at UC Berkeley. He recently returned from conducting fieldwork in Easter Island for his senior honors thesis in Anthropology. In the past, Pablo has worked as an undergraduate researcher with the Departments of Sociology, Art History, and Psychology, where he has explored questions as diverse as the legality of the marijuana market in California, art in times of political repression in Chile, and cognitive development in infants. Pablo is currently the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship – Berkeley Undergraduate Journal Coordinator, Research Assistant for Professor Cohen and for the Center for South Asia Studies, and organizer at the Anthropology Undergraduate Association.

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