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Journal of Tourism and


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Mobile Cultures? Hybridity,


Tourism and Cultural
Change
Kevin Meethan
Version of record first published: 29 Mar 2010

To cite this article: Kevin Meethan (2003): Mobile Cultures? Hybridity, Tourism
and Cultural Change, Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, 1:1, 11-28
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Mobile Cultures? Hybridity, Tourism and


Cultural Change

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Kevin Meethan
Department of Sociology , University of Plymouth, UK
This paper addresses the problem of cultural change in relation to tourism. It will
be argued that tourism research has tended to be theorised in terms of static models
predicated on the assumptions of unilinear development, and cultural change being
accounted for by a shift from one dened state into another. Beginning with a critique of the container model of culture, this paper then draws on recent anthropological and sociological developments concerned with globalisation to critically
examine the utility of the concept of hybridity. In conclusion, this paper will argue
that what is required is a transformative and processual approach that is capable of
accounting for the dynamic interplay of cultural change at both a micro and
macro level.
Keywords: Globalisation; culture; cultural change; hybridity; mobility

Introduction: Globalisation and Mobility


Globalisation appears to be on everyones agenda and perhaps surprisingly,
given the global mobility that tourism involves the response from tourism
analysis has been rather slow, with a few exceptions (Rojek & Urry, 1997;
Teo & Yeoh, 2001; Urry, 2002b; Wahab & Cooper, 2001). Since its earliest forms
tourism has involved the crossing of boundaries, in the metaphorical as much
as the physical sense, and so involves some form of culture contact, however
transient and supercial. Perhaps it is for these reasons that globalisation has
not received the attention in relation to tourism research that it deserves. Yet
there is also another possibility, which is the apparent reluctance of many
tourism researchers to engage in a critical appraisal of theoretical approaches
within the social sciences. Rather than take tourism as the point of departure,
perhaps it would be better to view tourism as one particular manifestation of
wider social, economic and cultural phenomena.
Although there are a number of contested denitions as to what globalisation is, does, and what the possible consequences are (see, for example, Beck,
2000; Urry, 2003) what they all seem to share in common is the belief that
whatever else it is, globalisation involves the widening, deepening and
speeding up of worldwide interconnectedness in all aspects of contemporary
social life (Held et al., 1999: 2; see also Wahab & Cooper, 2001: 4). Beyond
that rather generalised account, there are a number of approaches which differ
markedly in certain respects (Held et al., 1999). It is certainly not the intention
of this article to assess each of these positions and their ramications for tourism research. Rather the purpose is more limited, to deliberately set out a
particular standpoint from which to argue for a new approach towards the
analysis of tourism and cultural change. As will become clear, this involves
2003 K. Meethan
Vol. 1, No. 1, 2003

1476-6825/03/01 0011-18 $20.00/0


TOURISM AND CULTURAL CHANGE

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Tourism and Cultural Change

more than simply describing the contemporary patterns of tourism in relation


to globalisation in empirical terms (see Wahab & Cooper, 2001) for it also
requires rethinking certain basic assumptions concerning within tourism
analysis, and from that critique developing a theoretical framework that can
adequately account for the complexities of global transformation in relation
to tourism and culture.
I would like to begin by sketching out two opposing positions towards
globalisation that Held et al. (1999) identify. First is what they term the hyperglobalist thesis which sees recent trends as presaging a shift towards a situation where economic and political power of the nation state will eventually
be supplanted. One of the consequences of this will be the emergence of something akin to a world culture, usually described in negative terms as the
ubiquitous spread of western forms of consumerism (Ritzer, 2000) of which
tourism is one variant (Ritzer & Liska, 1997; Scholte, 2000). The second position, the transformationalist thesis, sees globalisation as a transformative force
that will reshape the social and the cultural as much as the economic and
political. Unlike the hyperglobalist approach, this argues that future trajectory
of globalisation is unclear, as it is a combination of long-term historical and
contingent circumstances. Rather than predicting the end of the state, the
emergence of a world culture or its reinforcement through regional alliances,
globalisation recasts relationships between nation states, regions and localities
in more complex ways as they seek to adapt to the new circumstances (Held
et al., 1999: 710).
The rst point to note is that however we approach the problem of globalisation, it is not in itself a uniform process, and no matter how it my appear
from the privileged vantage point of the developed economies, forms of spatial or physical mobility are not as freely available as may be imagined. They
are circumscribed by both material considerations, such as having the means
to travel, as much as by political considerations, bans on the import of certain
goods perhaps, the issuing of visas, or restricted access to forms of media, in
short, the general characteristics of globalisation are not evenly distributed,
and neither do they have uniform effects. The immediate challenge then is to
try and grasp exactly what is occurring in terms not only of the models that
we employ to make sense of the social word, how such changes are acting to
recongure the social world at the interface of the global and the local, and
how these changes can be accounted for. Culture, or to be more precise cultures, are indeed being transformed by globalisation, but not in any simple
or predictable causal fashion. Yet among such contradictions uncertainties and
countervailing trends, or rather because of them, mobility has replaced sedentarism as the major metaphor around which issues of cultural change are being
thought out (Urry, 2002b, 2003). But in order to address such issues, it is necessary rst to take stock of what is meant by culture in tourism and culture
in general.

Culture in Place, Culture as Place


As Wallerstein, among others has pointed out, dening culture has proved
to be enduringly problematic, not the least reason being that it can refer both
to the ways in which groups distinguish themselves from one another, as well

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13

as referring to characteristics within groups (1990: 3132). One of the problems


in dening exactly what is meant by this term are the ways in which it is
used in everyday discourse, where it refers to a number of different, overlapping and even exclusive characteristics. Culture can refer to notions of taste
and renement, often associated with the high arts or even civilisation itself,
while also referring in a more holistic sense to a way of life, the sum total
of beliefs, actions and the material production of a given population (Eagleton,
2000; Kuper, 1999). Yet culture can also be dened as a segment of a given
population, as in minority cultures, youth culture or workplace culture. As
Eagleton comments, it is precisely this apparent capacity of the term, to be all
encompassing and generalised on the one hand, yet narrowly dened and
particularisitc on the other that makes it so problematic (Eagleton, 2000: 32).
Culture, however dened, can also be used in an instrumental fashion as a
means of establishing and maintaining differences, perhaps for political or
economic purposes. For example, within the marketing of tourism, we see
culture being used in a paricularist way, to label and dene specialised or
niche markets often associated with the high arts, most typically associated
with the developed economies (Craik, 2001; Douglas et al., 2001; Hughes, 2000;
Fladmark, 1994; Lohmann & Mundt, 2002; Richards, 2001; Robinson, 1999).
Outside the parameters of the developed economies though, culture tends to
be both marketed and analysed in a different way.
Although the idea of high culture is not exclusively western (Eisenstadt,
1996; Picard, 1996) cultural tourism in terms of the less developed regions of
the world tends to be seen on the basis of their cultural exoticism or ethnic
difference (Harrison, 2000; Hitchcock et al., 1993; Picard, 1997).
Here culture is being used in a broad holistic sense as comprising a set of
values and beliefs, associated with differences attributed to national, regional
or local identity. Even within the domestic tourist markets of the developing
economies we nd similar processes at work (Ghmire, 2001). Partly to cater
to consumer demand (Beck, 2000; Du Gay & Pryke, 2002) culture is commodied and sold as difference. Such romanticisation of the primitive other is
arguably rooted in forms of 19th century nationalism and colonialism
(Eagleton, 2000: 26) predicated on the premise that we live in self-contained
and enclosed societies that are naturally coterminous with the boundaries of
nation states. It is within these boundaries that we nd social solidarity, identity and tradition (Appadurai, 1996; Beck, 2000; Cohen, 1997). Culture then is
conceptualised as a collection of inherent, essential and authentic attributes,
which people simply possess, by virtue of the fact that they are located within
a bounded territory (Beck, 2000; Wicker, 1997). In a similar fashion, Welsch
denes this as the traditional concept of single cultures which assumes that:
First, every culture is supposed to mould the whole life of the people
concerned and its individuals, making every act and every object an
unmistakable instance of precisely this culture Secondly, culture is
always to be the culture of a folk ... Thirdly every culture is, as the culture of one folk, to be distinguished and remain separate from other
folks cultures (1999: 194195, emphases in original).
The spatial referent in this equation is important not only because tourism

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Tourism and Cultural Change

relies on the commodication of place, but also because many analyses regarding tourism and cultural change have tended to focus on the success or not
of cultures to maintain or reproduce themselves as if they are isolated containers within which, and only within which, the specic, essential and authentic nature of a culture is manifest (see for example Archer & Cooper, 1998;
Burns & Holden, 1995; Fennell, 1999; Pearce, 1989; Ryan, 1991; Williams, 1998;
Youell, 1998). However much salience such ideological formations still have
at the level of actions and practices (a point I will return to below), at a theoretical level the essentialist positions they attempt to sustain have come under
criticism for a number of reasons. Most notably this is due to the challenge
of both poststructuralist and postmodernist critiques of essentialism, and an
awareness of the discursive and ideological nature of cultures (for example,
see Bhabha, 1994; Clifford, 1992, 1997). While driven in part by theoretical
concerns, such critiques also have to account for the increasing mobility or
ows involved in the contemporary conditions of globalisation which
includes, inter alia, the mobility of capital, information, commodities and
people. In turn the latter, whether tourists, permanent migrants or temporary
workers, bring with them knowledge of cultural values, and the practices associated with these forms of knowledge (Cohen, 1997; Fortier, 2000; Freidman,
1994; Hall, 2001; Morley, 2000; Robertson et al., 1994; Soeld, 2001; Weil, 1999).
Leaving aside the distinct possibility that cultures have always been in a condition of ux rather than stasis, the contemporary situation of globalisation
clearly makes both the analysis as much as the practising of culture more
complex and problematic. Whether or not we are witnessing an epochal shift
may be a matter of degree or interpretation, whichever way we want to spin
it, the evidence indicates a substantive move from more or less place bound
cultures to cultural forms that are increasingly diasporic, transnational or
translocal (Hall, 2001; Nederveen-Pieterse, 1995; Welsch, 1999). Once we begin
to account for such movements then a different picture of cultural formation
and change begins to emerge (Appadurai, 1996; Clifford, 1997; Cohen, 1997;
Hollinshead, 1998; Holton, 1998; Nederveen-Pieterse, 1995; Werbner &
Modood, 1997).

Things out of Place


Ever since the beginnings of modern tourism the different values, goods
and behaviour that tourism is seen to bring in its wake have been regarded
as intrusions, and tourists themselves have often been viewed as little more
than vulgar despoilers (see, for example, Levenstein, 1998). Such approaches
are little more than simple causeeffect models, such as the naive fallacy of
the demonstration effect, in which cultural change is assessed in terms of the
impacts or effects that outsiders either wittingly or not bring with them.
In its strongest form, this can be regarded as a process of imperialism (Nash,
1989), or in a weaker form as a kind of attening out of cultural differences
resulting in homogeneity where the host community must become more
like the tourists culture (Nunez, 1989: 266, see also Cohen, 1987; Cooper et al.,
1998; MacCannell, 1996; Ritzer, 2000; Ritzer & Liska, 1997). My argument is
that such approaches are simply not tenable, as they are based on a number of
implicit assumptions that follow from an uncritical acceptance of the container

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model of culture. To begin with, we have the element of loss, a direct consequence of the spread of modernity. In turn this is part of wider, historically
rooted discourses, which reify the past in terms of a nostalgic yearning for
innocence (Featherstone, 1991; May, 1996; Meethan, 2001; Miller, 1994; Papastergiadis, 1997; Urry, 2002b). Hence pre-modern cultures as viewed as being
the repositories of the authentic and the natural (Frow, 1997). This assumption
which, although being powerful and pervasive, is really no more than a consequence of viewing modernity as a condition characterised by a lack of authentic social relations (MacCannell, 1992, 1996) where alienation is assumed
to be the quintessential modern condition (Miller, 1994: 73).
Although it is not my intention to dwell too long on the authenticity debate
which has been adequately dealt with elsewhere (Meethan, 2001; Wang, 1999,
2000) some account of it still needs to be made. Arguments over the authentic
are in part a claim to primordial origins where it is assumed that point of
origin, or earliest manifestation of a culture, is the pre-eminent factor that
denes its true essence (see Freidman, 1997: 81). In addition, such claims are
also a consequence of taking as given the container model of culture as a given
absolute. In general, we nd that a cultural practice is deemed authentic if
the social relationships inhering to the production of goods and cultural practices are assumed to be unmediated by commodication, and are also internal
to the culture in question. What apparently renders such practices inauthentic
is when outside inuences, in particular the introduction of commodity
relations, turn the genuine article into something that it should not be. This
also implies some form of judgement, often comprising both moral and aesthetic elements (Hendry, 2000; Howell, 1995), about the presumed innocence
and purity of others (Archer & Cooper, 1994; Fennell, 1999; Pearce, 1989).
Not only are tourists (the alienated) duped by the production of commodities
for the market, but the indigenous populace are apparently alienating themselves by commodifying social relationships. In turn, this relates to the widely
prevalent notion that somehow, culture is, or should be, divorced from commercial activity for afuence, as Miller notes, is often equated with a corresponding loss of authenticity (1994: 205). (see also, Du Gay & Pryke, 2002). It
is not only tourist analysts who assume this to be the case, so to do the tourists
themselves. As one example, Suvantolas study of backpackers makes the
point that:
Many of the backpacker visitors have an idealised picture of what constitutes genuine interaction with other peoples; it should not involve
money. They forget (or do not realise) that commerce may also be
another form of meaningful interaction (2002: 228).
Such notions of loss and degradation, the split between the real other and
its commercialised substitute are, I would argue, a direct consequence of
applying of the container model of culture. Both objects, people and the
relations between them, ought to be in their correct place, the implication
here being that each manifestation of culture only has salience within its specied geographical and historical location. To step outside these often ill-dened
parameters is viewed as a form of transgression, where both objects and
people become inappropriate, anomalous and out of place. To use a

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Tourism and Cultural Change

biological metaphor, it is as if to uproot or transplant an object or cultural


practice is to remove it from its natural habitat. There is more than a hint of
functionalism in such accounts that see cultures as closed systems existing in
a state of static equilibrium. To do so is to privilege external factors as the
agents of change, and a consequent downplaying of the internal dynamics of
change (Picard, 1993; Wood, 1993). In short, what we end up with is notion
of change pitched in terms of a conict between modernity and its others,
idealised as either existing in the past, or in other places, if not both. The aim
of my criticism here is to point out that within much of the tourism literature
such formulations have been uncritically accepted as given. The net result of
this is that cultural change tends to be assessed on the basis of an implicit
essentialism that no longer ts the contemporary situation.

Culture as Practice
The rst step to resolving these problems is to reject the assumption that
cultures are idealised essences or entities that exist above and beyond the
actions of people (Barth, 1992; Clifford, 1997; Kuper, 1999; Papastergiadis,
1997), and to view culture as a continuous and hence always unnished process of ux and change. The basis of such an approach can be found in recent
anthropological writing, which views cultural production as a process of generating or conferring meaning through symbolic forms (Abram et al., 1997;
Boissevain, 1996; Clifford, 1992, 1997; Hitchcock et al., 1993; Nash, 1996; Sahlins, 1993; van der Veer, 1997). Such formulations have much in common with
those employed within cultural studies, as well as sociology (Barker, 2000;
Beck, 2000; Hall, 2001; Storey, 1999; Tomlinson, 1999). Rejecting static and
place bound notions of culture as essence, such approaches focus on the
actions involved in the creation of knowledge and meaning which inform the
social practices of maintaining culture. In this sense, we can dene practice
as the actions that create and sustain a particular way of being in the world.
Cultural attributes that are not attributable to an innate essence that we possess by virtue of birth, but are learned and socialised. It is through forms of
practice, even at the most mundane level, that distinctions such as the division
of work, gender roles and so on, are created and maintained. Yet the social
signicance of practices is not simply waiting to be discovered, but has in
Freidmans terms, to be conferred (1997: 74) which requires consensus. In turn
this relies on the acquisition of certain forms of knowledge about what is and
what is not of value, and this may also involve issues of power and subordination (Bourdieu, 1984, 1990). In this sense, culture is conceived as a framework or matrix of common values that provide general guiding principles for
action, and the ways in which these which are employed, often strategically,
according to material circumstances (see also Hitchcock, 1999). It is the sum
total, at any given time, of these forms of knowledge and practices that constitutes a culture. In short, practice does not reect culture, rather, culture is the
outcome of a contingent set of practical actions. In this holistic sense we can
accommodate both high culture, as well as the more mundane tasks which
constitute daily life. Because culture is always work in progress, an emergent
set of categories and practices, the ways in which people negotiate their position, meanings and values are constantly being maintained and transformed

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in the light of shifting contextual circumstances (Hall, 2001; Sahlins, 1993;


Swingewood, 1998). Forms of knowledge and practices though, like material
goods, are not evenly distributed throughout populations (Bourdieu, 1984,
1990). Access to, and the use of, knowledge may be delimited by a number
of factors, either singly or in combination, for example, by geographical and
spatial boundaries (Tomlinson, 1999); by gender (Martinez, 1998; Sinclair,
1997) by socioeconomic status (Bourdieu, 1984; Mathews, 2000), by religious
and/or ethnic afliation (Hitchcock, 1999; Seufert, 1997) or be dominated by
local elites (Crain, 1998).
Cultures then do not comprise essential and xed categories. Clearly we
are dealing with an extension of the social realm into transnational spaces
where the collective resources, or cultural repertoire from which people draw
can incorporate a range of diverse elements from other places, as much
imagined and virtual, as corporeal and material (Hannerz, 1996; Miller &
Slater, 2000; Rapport & Dawson, 1998; Urry, 2000, 2002a). To think otherwise
is quite simply to ignore the intercultural importexport in which all
encounters are now enmeshed (Clifford, 1997: 23) and arguably always have
been. So it appears, at least on the surface, that what we are dealing with here
is a matter of travelling cultures (Clifford, 1992, 1997; see also Rojek & Urry,
1997: 11; Urry, 2002b: 156), despite the the claim by Bauman (1999) that culture
is an outmoded concept for analytical purposes, and should be replaced with
notions of transience and mobility (see also Albrow et al., 1997; Urry, 2002a).

Travelling or Hybrid Cultures?


As perhaps tting to a situation of ux and change, there are a number of
terms that can be used to describe the current situation of cultural mixing that
characterises the contemporary world. Even if we wish to discard the term
culture, the problem then becomes one of developing a new set of concepts
that will encompass the changes that are occurring. A representative, but not
exhaustive, list includes glocalisation (see Beck, 2000: 4750) to creolisation
(Hannerz, 1996) to hybridity (Nederveen-Pieterse, 1995) to interstitiality
(Soeld, 2001: 106). Despite this apparent terminological confusion, what all
these cognate terms refer to are rst, a state of indeterminacy or inbetweenness, itself a direct consequence of the displacement of the xed
points of nation and a unied culture, and second, the processes by which a
combination or mix of elements usually held as distinct and place specic are
combined in apparently new forms which appear to cross both physical and
conceptual boundaries (see also Featherstone & Lash, 1999; Urry, 2003). As
Clifford quite rightly points out, within the current global system, there is a
need to ... consider circuits, not a single place (1997: 37) when dealing with
the issue of cultural change. The idea of travelling cultures is more than just
a neat metaphor, as it forces us to challenge many of the assumptions by
which the social sciences conceptualised culture in terms of stasis (see also
Rojek & Urry, 1997; Urry, 2002a).
In general terms this is correct, yet there is also need for caution. First,
despite the mobility entailed in globalisation, attachment to place still has salience in peoples lives (Rapport & Dawson, 1998; Tomlinson, 1999). Second,
tourism is not the same as other forms of mobility and migration, in that it

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Tourism and Cultural Change

is always a transient encounter, involving the movement of the relatively


wealthy sectors of the global populace even within developing countries
(Ghimire, 2001; Morley, 2000). Third, the spaces in which tourist activities
occur are rmly rooted in the contingent circumstances of a locality, so that
tourism by its nature involves both global transience and local cultural specicity. Fourth, as transient outsiders, tourists can never hope to acquire the
crucial knowledge and understanding, or habitus that insiders possess. In this
sense the cultural knowledge gleaned by tourists, even of the most mundane
kind, will be partial and incomplete. As a result, any cultural forms that
emerge from the tourist encounter may then be perceived as hybrid forms
that being neither one thing nor the other, appear to belong nowhere (Rojek &
Urry, 1997: 11).
One of the more articulate models of hybridity has been provided by Nederveen-Pieterse (1995). He argues that although cultures can no longer be
thought of as exclusively territorial in their scope, locality is not diminished
in its importance for despite all the forms of travel and mobility, attachment
to place still has salience in peoples lives (see also Tomlinson, 1999). His
approach to this dual feature, mobility in the one hand and stasis on the other,
is to propose a dual model of culture. The rst, as a localised process, most
usually associated with the notion of cultures as wholes dened by territory,
and the second, as a translocal process, a formulation similar to that by Sarup
(1994: 95) who similarly distinguishes between space-based action, that which
one can move from, and space-bound action, which is more limiting. However, these are not mutually exclusive, rather the rst is inward-looking, while
the second is outward-looking. To focus on hybridity is to focus on the dialectical relationship between the two, the emergence then of hybrid forms then
is a combination of the xed local with the mobile translocal (NederveenPieterse, 1995: 61). Now in many ways this appears to t the case of tourism
well, the xed local combines with transient tourism to create a hybrid touristic culture that can be illustrated by Figure 1.
However, there are a number of problems here not the least being that of
accounting for the diverse range of activities encompassed by the label tourism. First, there is no single unitary category of the tourist both in terms of
origins, as much as the type of activity undertaken, in which case we would
then be dealing with a multiplicity of hybrid forms, which in itself calls the
utility of the concept into question. The second point is that it is people, not
cultures that travel, to think otherwise is to commit the error of assuming that
cultures are entities endowed the capacity to act. Third, as the forms of
mobility inherent in globalisation extend beyond travel for leisure, including
commodities, money and forms of media, then the logic of the argument must

Figure 1 Model of hybrid cultures

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Mobile Cultures?

19

extend it to cover all forms of movement. Perhaps one way to approach the
problem is to assume that, rather than being the exceptions to a rule, all cultures are by denition hybrids (Nederveen-Pieterse, 1995, 2001; Urry, 2002b).
However, such a formulation reduces the complexity of global interaction to
a simple tautology that has no heuristic value whatsoever. A less strong position can be made if we argue that some cultures are more hybrid than others,
but in order to argue that point, we would therefore have to delimit and dene
the constituent parts that go into their creation. In other words we would
need to specify which particular elements of a local culture were authentically local, and which were authentically transnational. If the logic of this
position is pursued, we can therefore say that hybrids can only exist if there
is some non-hybrid against which to compare them. Two examples can be
used to illustrate this point.
John Eades study of the changes to London as a result of successive waves
of migration nds that Soho and Spitalelds, in particular, contains people
who are exploring a pick-and-mix world of hybrid identities that dees the
simplicities of homogenous identities and communities (2000: 181). Cultural
identity for these people then extends beyond the spatial limitations of their
immediate locale, linking them to their nominal homelands, in this case Hong
Kong and Bangladesh (see also Miller & Slater, 2000). By way of contrast, the
situation described by OReilly (2000), concerning the particular situation of
British expatriates living in Spain tells a different story. These are people who
consciously maintain their distance from Spanish society, by steadfastly refusing to learn the language for instance, and tend to live a rather marginal existence. Although maintaining some aspects of their British identity, they also
at the same time attempt to distance themselves from their culture of origin.
What these examples point to are the ways in which forms of cultural identity
can be played out in situations where point of origin and the actual location
of those involved are not coterminous. In this sense they are then incorporating both local and translocal elements of the kind described by NederveenPieterse (see also Kraidy, 2002). In both these cases though what we see are
people both creating and maintaining forms of cultural identity that are created as different in relation to a wider culture against which they can be compared, if there is no centre, then there is no hybrid.
Hybridity then may only be variety of the subculture argument, a means
for recognising diversity while at the same time seeking to integrate it into a
whole (Albrow et al., 1997: 26). In other words, we would simply be retreating
into the position I criticised earlier, that of dening the local as unitary and
essential, and the translocal as that which is simply outside, other and in
between. So rather than solving the problem of essentialism or transcending
boundaries as it may rst appear, hybridity, and for that matter creolisation
and other cognate terms simply confuses them. All cultures x boundaries,
indeed, they cannot be recognised as such unless this is so (Appadurai, 1996;
Bauman, 1999; Fardon, 1995; Freidman, 1995, 1997; Sahlins, 1993). We also
have to acknowledge that this mixing of cultural forms is as much a process
of absorption as anything else, as Signe Howell states ... the borrowing of
alien knowledge, and its adaptation to local needs, is going on constantly,
and that such processes of indigenisation of alien knowledge occur as much

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here and there (1995: 165). In this sense, to take something and make it
ours is to exploit difference as a condition of group creation (Appadurai,
1996: 13).
There are then three qualications that need to be made at this point. First,
the concept of hybridity may be a useful metaphor, but has very limited utility
as a general analytical category from which to approach the wider issues of
globalisation and cultural change. Second, despite all the mobility of contemporary globalisation, locality does not simply disappear under its apparent
onslaught for as Freise and Wagner point out, One does not have to assume
that there are no stable linkages at all, that everything is contingent and in
ux (1999: 113). Third, there is also a danger that, having rejected the idea
of culture as a static container, the unxed and the mobile itself may be romanticised and valorised by assuming that stasis is reactionary, and ux progressive (Morley, 2000: 228229; see also Sineld, 2000: 104). Bearing this in mind,
we need to follows Cliffords (1997: 36) advice not to fall into the trap of
assuming that nomadology is the name of the game.

Culture as Strategy
It must also be recognised that assertions of cultural distinctiveness are
assertions made perhaps, in the face of what appears to be the disempowering
processes of globalisation, as much as the exploitation of the possibilities for
new cultural forms that globalisation offers us, for as Clifford remarks:
when every cultural agent (especially global capitalism) is mixing and
matching forms, we need to be able to recognize strategic claims for
localism or authenticity as possible sites of resistance and empowerment
rather than of simple nativism (1997: 183).
There are then also instances where cultural formation, rather than proceeding in the direction of a greater mixing, seems to be heading in an opposite
trajectory of essentialism. The anthropologist Karsten Paerregaard notes, in
his study of ruralurban migration in Peru, that the migrants tend to localise
and essentialise their identity as a means of demarcating themselves from
other urban inhabitants: Whereas we deterritorialize and deconstruct culture,
they territorialize and essentialize it (1997: 252; see also Medina, 2003: 365).
Just as fast as social theory is opening the box of culture, others it would
seem, are just as quickly closing it up again. What is at work in these instances
is a self-conscious deployment of difference. As the cases above make clear,
to claim that one is a member of a hybrid culture is an act of self-denition
(Freidman, 1997: 81; see also Bauman, 1992; Hall, 2001; Hoogvelt, 2001; Jamison, 1999; Waters, 1990). What we should also add to that is that whereas in
theoretical terms we can discard essentialism as an outmoded and misguided
approach, this is not the way it is perceived by many of those caught up in
the complex array of cultural interchange that is occurring. It would also be
misleading, for to do so would also be conating culture as practice and culture as an analytical category (Wicker, 1997: 423).
One way of approaching this particular problem is to distinguish between
what Grifn has termed the intrinsic and instrumental uses of culture (2000:
196; see also Eade, 2000: 46). As an intrinsic quality, culture refers to forms

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Mobile Cultures?

21

of knowledge or ways of life that people regard as exemplifying their place


in the world. The instrumental or strategic on the other hand, are ways that
culture is used as a means to achieve economic, social and political purposes.
A similar distinction is made by Gerd Bauman (1997) between the dominant
discourse of culture as an overarching value system, and the demotic discourses of culture, which are the working out in practice of the differences
and the similarities that exist between social groups (Barker, 2000; Grifn,
2000; Ifversen, 2002; Wicker, 1997; Zukin, 1995).
This selection as it were, of practices and knowledge deemed suitable for
tourist commodication can then be seen as a means to maintain cultural distinction, rather than a loss of it. Silvermans account of tourism in the Sepik
river region of Papua New Guinea (2000) provides an interesting example
here. In terms of the production of tourist art or souvenirs, he notes that
whereas tourism has created a demand for certain items, many of which are
non-traditional, this has not resulted in any degradation to the production of
objects for their own use:
Men, for example, refuse to peddle bull roarers or proper bamboo utes,
male cult objects that must remain concealed from women objects that
resemble ritual items differ from sacra in nonvisual ways that are that
are unknown to most tourists and buyers (2000: 114).
Here we nd people actively engaging in the tourist encounter for their own
economic gain, while at the same time being able to reconcile the needs of
the tourists with their own cultural practices. As Freidman (1995: 8788)
argues, global cultural processes are best considered as positioned practices such as assimilation, encompassment and integration in the context of
social interaction (see also Hendry, 2000; Mathews, 2000; Sahlins, 1993; Teo &
Li, 2003). In this sense, their actions are strategic (Oakes, 1997; Rodriguez,
1998; Sjoberg, 1993; Wilkinson, 2000). In other words, what is occurring is a
struggle to control the practices of cultural production and reproduction in
the light of changing circumstances. In other cases this can also involve complex legal arguments concerning intellectual property rights (see Howes,
1996), as much as serving the political ambitions of the nation state
(Hitchcock & King, 1997; Picard, 1996) or the tourism industry.
If this is accepted, then it follows that the focus of enquiry should be the
processes of authentication, through which specic social practices and forms
of knowledge are institutionalised and authorised as being legitimate
expressions of a culture (Spooner, 1986; Wood, 1997). It is these processes of
cultural invention that serve to demarcate and differentiate between people.
Neither should we perceive this as a threat, for it is precisely the processes
involved in the localising or indigenisation of cultural forms that are the systematic conditions of maintaining cultural distinctiveness (Wood, 1997: 19).
The fact that cultural give and take has always been with us is beyond doubt,
and many studies in addition to those cited above have drawn attention to
these processes and the effects that occur when cultures come into contact
with each other. Various aspects of both material and non-material cultures
are borrowed, decontextualised and recontextualised, according to localised

22

Tourism and Cultural Change

needs, and it is through such processes that they become an accepted part of
a given culture.

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Conclusion: A Transformative Model of Culture


I began by criticising the dominant approach to cultural change within tourism studies, on the basis that the generally implicit model on which they
depend, no longer has any theoretical or empirical basis. Certainly, the notion
of cultures as bounded discrete entities, associated with the boundaries of the
nation state is untenable, and has clearly outlived its analytical usefulness.
That in turn led to the question as to whether or not cultures travel, if what
we are seeing occurring across the globe are mobility and hybridity, replacing
stasis and purity as the dominant metaphors around which we appear to be
organising our response towards the global issue of cultural change.
Certainly we have a situation that is more uid than in the past, and tourism, involving as it does the mass and temporary movement of people, exemplies the changes and challenges of such mobility. The processual nature of
cultural change, involving the dynamic interplay of the global with the local,
the general with the particular, may involve forms of assimilation or resistance, and may also involve forms of indigenisation through which outside
elements become incorporated into local cultures. In many ways these processes are neither new nor unique, but clearly the scope and pace of change
is of a new intensity. However, the examples I have given also indicate that
origins and locality are still important elements around which a sense of identity can be constructed. This seems to me to cast doubts on the stronger claims
that the condition of globalisation is one where everything, and indeed everybody, is mobile and owing. However, that does not in itself rule out the
possibility that we are faced with a situation where hybrid forms of culture
and identity are emerging such as appears to be the case where recognisable
minority populations are involved. Therefore it must be acknowledged that
the current conditions of globalisation, with mobility and transience to the
fore, allow for a much greater degree of mixing and interchange than was
possible in the past and which clearly involves the transient mobility of tourism. But to draw from that the conclusion that hybridity, or whatever cognate
term we use, is a general condition of global mobility is I think, not proven.
Indeed it would appear that hybridity only has salience only if it is self-consciously practised as such. The articulation of a culture as hybrid or creolised
is both a claim to collectivity and also to particularism, which in turn marks
and delimits the acceptable boundaries of what it is to be other and hybrid.
The transgression of boundaries may well dissolve the old certainties, but by
so doing erect others in their place. If we accept that this is a general feature
of culture, in the sense of cultures as bounded systems of knowledge, then
the focus should be upon the processual nature of cultural formations that
seek to link the general to the particular.
However, these new forms of culture and identity are different in a number
of ways to those that preceded them. First, they are not necessarily coterminous with the nation state, indeed they often involve forms of identication
that attempt to bridge an imaginary or removed homeland with the more
localised and specic places and conditions in which people are located.

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Second, because they are to an extent self-consciously negotiated and practised, the whole issue of cultural change is bound up with issues of identity
and agency. Now there are a number of good reasons why this should be so,
not least being the uncertainties that result from globalisation (Beck, 2000) and
the perceived threats to the nation state as the container of culture that simply equates a people with a place. Here too, the allied notions of purity and
authenticity, that some forms of national culture promulgate, are also challenged by the movement of others and the consequent creation of forms of
identity and knowledge that follow from that. As I mentioned above, it is also
crucial to bear in mind that it is people, their forms of knowledge, ways of
acting, also certain material goods not cultures that travel, as cultures are not
entities endowed with the capacity of agency. Yet each act of travel is also an
act of transformation. Culture as lived experience consists of patterns of social
relationships for all their imaginary components that need to be realised
in practical actions, and these actions are always circumscribed by the specic
conditions of localities.
The idea of hybridity then, fails I think, to recognise the inherently processual making and remaking of culture. Hybridity can only have salience if
it presupposes that cultures are xed and essentialised, otherwise it would
not be possible to identify the elements that, in combination, create the hybrid.
Those who claim a hybrid identity are doing so as a self-conscious act of
positioning in relation to a wider set of values perceived as dominant. At the
same time we also have to recognise that within any culture there will always
be some element of essentialism at work. But perhaps it is not after all, essentialism that is the problem, rather it is a case of recognising that essentialism
may in fact be the mechanism through which cultures are dened in the rst
place. The point here though is the essentialism at work here is not that of
the theorist, but rather that of the agent, so there is a need then to distinguish
between the usage if culture as an analytical category, and the use of culture
to achieve strategic and instrumental ends.
Certainly forms of culture do span what were previously thought of as selfcontained and relatively isolated realms of culture and knowledge, and even
time. These new spaces created as much, it needs to be said, by the operation
of global economics as by forms of knowledge and ways of acting, exhibit a
dual character. Anchored on the one and to the specicities of localities, at
the same time they extend to other more abstract notions of collectivity and
identity. In this way they encompass both the universal features of a culture
dened in terms of a delimited set of knowledge and practices and its particular manifestations as lived experience. Cultural change cannot simply be
accounted for in terms of a shift from one state into another. Rather, it needs
to be seen in processual terms that focus on the ways in which cultural forms
and practices become indigenised and transformed, the realisation of value
systems in terms of practical actions that are continuously being deployed,
which seek to link the general to the particular. To return to one of my opening
comments, in terms of cultural change tourism is not the starting point, rather
it is a manifestation of social, economic and cultural phenomena that are now
being played out on the global stage in complex forms of interaction, within
which tourism is one element among others.

24

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Correspondence
Any correspondence should be directed to Kevin Meethan, Department of
Sociology, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK
(K.Meethan@plymouth.ac.uk).

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