Academic journal article The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

Negotiating the "Global" within the Global Playscapes of Mount Everest *

Academic journal article The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

Negotiating the "Global" within the Global Playscapes of Mount Everest *

Article excerpt

ONE OF THE REASONS TOURISM is becoming of interest to anthropologists is because of tourism's globalizing effects--global markets and tourism practices change the contours of the world map, turning more and more remote places into tourist destinations through global economic processes (Stronza, 2001) and, at the same time, enabling tourists to become increasingly mobile, global subjects (Harrison, 2003; Franklin and Crang, 2001). Many cite the dramatic increase in global tourism in the late twentieth century reported by the World Tourism Organization (e.g., Harrison, 2003). Recent attention has focussed on the globalization of tourist destinations, notably Lofgren's (1999) account of "the global beach," and on the globalization of tourist experiences (e.g., Holmes, 2001). Anthropology of tourism is concerned with, among other issues, the mapping out of tourist spaces, and the blurring of touristic with everyday experiences, such as consumption and work, taking place in a globalizing world.

Despite the vast literature on the motivations and the sociological constitution of "the tourist" (e.g., Cohen, 1974; Graburn, 1983; MacCannell, 1976; Munt, 1994; Urry, 1990), scant attention has been placed on the unproblematized notions of who it is moving within these increasingly globalized tourist worlds (although see Jokinen and Veijola, 1997). Oppositional categories such as "tourist" and "local" (Nash, 1996) and "guests" and "hosts" (Smith, 1989) are used to conceptualize largely neocolonial relations constitutive of international tourism in which, it is often assumed, those from the "First World" visit the "Third World" (see Stronza, 2001: 263). The anthropology of tourism remains to an extent focussed on a mobile "us," as Crick (1989) has suggested, and our relationship with a "them" who, despite anthropology's fascination with movement and travel, remain rather stationary. Asymmetries between First World/Third World, East/West, North/South, us/them are a key problematic of tourism studies, yet the boundaries of such imagined bounded worlds no longer hold. "Others" engaging in tourism, not merely as service providers or "hosts," thus present a challenge. Shifting boundaries, in terms of where tourism takes place and who can be a tourist, as well as relationships between global and local, are changing the contours and conceptualizations of tourist spaces (Lofgren, 1999). In this paper, I focus on the negotiations of global mountaineering worlds or "playscapes," as I refer to them, by an emerging category of mobile subject/"tourist" in Nepal--"recreational Nepali climbers."

Eight of the fourteen highest mountains in the world are located within the national boundaries of Nepal, including the highest, Sagarmatha (the Nepali Hindu name), known more widely as Mount Everest (the British name, commonly used within Nepal and elsewhere). Mountaineering developed in Nepal as a kind of international tourism, where outsiders sought permission to enter the kingdom in order to explore, map and climb its coveted peaks and, eventually, to establish the first adventure travel programs in the country (Zurick, 1992). Nineteenth-century explorers, many of whom were British colonial agents living in India at the time, might not so easily be categorized as tourists, since "the tourist" is generally recognized as a category emerging from conditions in post-industrial modernity (MacCannell, 1976) and because "mountaineer" seems a rather cavalier category averse to identifications with sport or tourism. Nevertheless, the early foreign visitors to Nepal can be seen as embodying a Western desire for the mountainous landscape, given that mountaineering as a recreational pursuit is held to have originated in the European Alps (Frison-Roche and Jouty, 1996; Schama, 1995). Many Nepalis, more specifically ethnic Sherpas, made excellent "coolies," load-carrying porters and eventually high-altitude porters and guides for foreign expeditions, and thus participated in the transnational practice of Himalayan mountaineering as migrant labourers from the start until now (Adams, 1992; 1996; Ortner, 1998; 1999). …

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