NEW BOOK: Making the Modern Primitive: Cultural Tourism in the Trobriand Islands
Post doctor Michelle MacCarthy has published a new book.
Making the Modern Primitive provides an anthropological analysis of the encounter between local residents and tourists in the Trobriand Islands, a place renowned in anthropology and represented in various media as "culturally authentic." In such a place, how are ideas about authenticity implicated in creating and representing the self and cultural Others in the context of cultural tourism? Michelle MacCarthy addresses this question by examining four arenas of interaction between Trobriand Islanders and tourists: formal performances, informal village visits, souvenir shopping, and tourist photography. Drawing on both symbolic/interpretive approaches and concepts drawn from economic anthropology, she examines the relationship of tourism to the commoditization of culture, the ways in which local residents actively represent and enact "Trobriandness," and the ways tourists interpret and narrate their experience. MacCarthy offers an anthropological critique of concepts of authenticity, tradition, and cultural commodification, based on long-term fieldwork among Trobriand Islanders and tourists.
MacCarthy’s work adds a fascinating new chapter to the important place of the Trobriand Islands in anthropological thought about exchange and in the history of fieldwork methodology. A great strength of the book is MacCarthy’s balanced and unusually sensitive documentation of the perspectives of both foreign tourists and their Trobriander hosts. In the best anthropological tradition, she weaves extensive verbatim quotations from her fieldwork interlocutors directly into the subtle theoretical conversation that she stages in her own original voice. -Rupert Stasch, University of Cambridge
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