Southeast Asia Tourism: Introductory Chapter

Southeast Asia Tourism: Introductory Chapter

Maximiliano Korstanje (University of Palermo, Argentina), Bintang Handayani (Independent Researcher, Indonesia) and Hugues Seraphin (The University of Winchester, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7393-7.ch001

Abstract

The chapter starts from the assumption that in spite of the abundance of research about Southeast Asia, they are published by native English speakers such as Australians or Britons, instead of genuine Southeast Asians. In addition, they emulate long dormant discourses forged and used during the colonial rule to domesticate the non-Western “Other.” Alternating among the fields of heritage consumption, dark tourism, a post-colonial landscape, and of course the scourge of terrorism, these studies obscure more than they clarify – most probably replicating the essence of colonialism. This book aims to discuss new themes and horizons allowing youth researchers to produce knowledge from the bottom up.
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Introduction

Despite being a global and growing industry, tourism has situated as an object of study for many social scientists and academicians (Tribe 1997; Crang 1999). The discussion is given to the fact that some voices claim that tourism is based on an economic dynamic which contributes to the local economy and the fairer wealth distribution in some underdeveloped nations (Manzanec, Wober & Zins, 2007; Manzanec & Ring, 2011), while for others, tourism represents an all-pervading social institution (Cohen 1988; MacCannell 1976). Quite aside from the controversy, what is important to debate seems to be the extent to the economic-centered paradigm gropes for those material resources that boost tourist destinations. Their object of study comprises the destination-management, as well as those factors or risk which may place the industry in jeopardy. Rather, social scientists emphasize on tourism as a mechanism of revitalization for society. As Dean MacCannell (1976) puts it, tourism serves as the symbolic touchstone of modern capitalism organizing the social relations and subordinating all them for consumption. Through the figure of staged-authenticity, MacCannell adds, tourism works as the totem in the aboriginal life. MacCannell toys with the belief tourism tend to replicate itself in different cultures not only commoditizing the “Other” but also creating a gap in the host-guest encounter. Others more critical minds signal to the belief that tourism industry not only connects nations but also disposes from disciplinary narratives to control the non-western alterity (Palmer 1994; d´Hautesserre, 2004; Korstanje 2012). If their assertions are correct, one might speculate that tourism tends to populate other non-western cultures accelerating a dependency between the privileged center (Europe) and its periphery. In this vein, Jean and John Comaroff (2009) acknowledge that tourism helps local to alleviate poverty but at the same time, it paves the ways for the rise of old-dormant (post-colonial) conflict between ethnicities. This raises a more than an interesting question, which guided the original goals of this book, is tourism a western invention which was successfully imported to the non-Western World?

Though this question sounds broader to be answered in simple terms, no less true is that Southeast Asia tourism exhibits a fertile ground to expand the understanding of modern tourism in non-western landscapes or in terms of Cohen, in post-colonial landscapes. At the time of inspecting the main themes and subthemes that circulate in the academic circles about South East Tourism, we certainly find five clear-cut issues: a) Heritage or cultural Tourism, b) Sex Tourism, c) Dark-Tourism and other macabre manifestations, d) Rural Tourism and economic development, and e) some critical issues or tourism safety.

All the produced knowledge leads very well to a state of fragmentation, disorientation which concerns scholars who are interested in Southeast Asia tourism. Somehow, this region has captivated the attention of many professional researchers in the same way that anthropology and ethnology have focused in the past. Is this a type of new post-colonial paternalism? Or simply an attempt to modernize the region through the articulation of tourism and consumption?

In the following lines, we shall discuss the five –above noted- issues which are interrelated into the same post-colonial narrative, which today embodies the circulating discourses, fears, and expectances, hosts and guests show. To some extent, the region was historically occupied by different European powers, as well as it was a victim of the intromission of the US during the Cold War (Lieberman, 2003). The region includes countries which are geographically bordered by the South of China, east of India, west of New Guinea, and north of Australia. Basically, Southeast Asia is formed by two geographic sub-regions such as Mainland Southeast Asia, and Maritime Southeast Asia. While the former comprises Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and West Malaya, the latter lumps together Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Indonesia, East Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, East Timor, Brunei, Christmas Island and Cocos. Sociologically speaking, this part of Asia is rich in ethnical diversity and traditional landscapes which are of great attraction for western gazers (Urry, 1992).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Southeast Asia Tourism: Is a geographical region which formed by two geographic sub-regions such as Mainland Southeast Asia, and Maritime Southeast Asia. While the former comprises Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and West Malaya, the latter lumps together Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Indonesia, East Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, East Timor, Brunei, Christmas Island, and Cocos.

Knowledge: It refers to the familiarity, awareness, and comprehension of some environmental facts.

European Colonialism: Is the policy of foreign polity launched by the colonial European powers to retain their authority in the overseas lands.

Dark Tourism: Macabre form of tourism that seeks to visit sites of mass death or destruction.

Development: State of wellbeing and prosperity which is marked by a maturate economy and the fairer distribution of wealth.

Heritage: It signals to the cultural legacy which attributes to a group or a community.

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