Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

Negotiating Culture, Economics and Community Politics: The Practice of Lei Yue Mun Tourism in Postcolonial Hong Kong

Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

Negotiating Culture, Economics and Community Politics: The Practice of Lei Yue Mun Tourism in Postcolonial Hong Kong

Article excerpt

- INTRODUCTION

Tourism is well on its way to becoming a key theme of cultural research. There is now an extensive literature on how travelling as a feature of globalisation is characterised not simply by interconnected-ness and homogenisation but also by multidirectional mobility and cultural differentiation; this is the socio-cultural background against which global cities, including Hong Kong and other Asian cities, undertake transformation by incorporating cultural elements into their economic and spatial changes.1 There is also research on the local dynamics and mechanisms of tourism as a global phenomenon, research which challenges theories of a global cultural homogeneity.2 Yet the intersection of media, cultural institutions, local communities and tourism is already attracting worldwide attention from the academy and the general public, and has prompted theoretical reflection on 'contemporary' cultural formations primarily in the Western world. John Urry and Chris Rojek, for example, invent the concept of 'touring cultures' to characterise a new moment of modernity in which the boundary separating culture from tourism collapses and tourism comes to be regarded as a set of social practices subject to perpetual 'culturalization', i.e. the process of cultural mediation.3

Many tourism studies ultimately couch this mediating process in the antagonism between the tourist industry or the nation-state and indigenous cultures. On the one hand, since the 1990s the 'social constitution of the tourist gaze' has become the key concept for a great deal of research. Some work investigates the cultural mediation of spectacle, landscape and display, highlighting various mediators and assessing their impact on travellers' sense of place;4 studies note that most tourists rely heavily on tourist authorities, guidebooks, site operators and travel writers, because they stay only briefly in the host country, lack local knowledge and prefer to enjoy their leisure time rather than explore others' cultures in depth. These basic conditions give rise to a highly mediated sphere of consumption within which tourists move about in the host country and consume cultural product. On the other hand, those who are toured not only play the role of object of the tourist gaze,5 but also actively engage in representing their cultural heritage.6 Some argue, however, that highlighting (for example) ethnic differences in the guise of a 'staged authenticity' runs the risk of cultural alienation and debasement.7 Authentic cultures are viewed as a rare species endangered by a commodification which turns the use value of culture into exchange value in the tourist markets haunted by commodity fetishism.

Among these studies there is, as Chris Healy argues, implicitly a sense of intellectual responsibility and authority which takes the form of 'patrician preservationism'.8 The new challenge facing local communities is not simply a distortion of their cultural authenticities; instead, they are compelled to produce various senses of authenticity and to 'resurrect' historical heritage. Despite its commercial nature, tourism can be seen as an unruly generative force involving multiple values and practices,9 a force not entirely disciplined by the imperatives of capitalist economy.10 The cultural dynamic in tourism is not necessarily characterised by confrontation between indigenous culture and global culture, and local agency may not take the form of a resistance mapped on to a 'site' of consciousness or to 'culture areas'.11 This argument echoes Stuart Hall's redefinition of 'the local' in the post-colonial context as a matter of identities opening to new things and speaking across boundaries rather than of reiterating a narrow sense of 'ethnicity'.12 At the same time, this new political moment or process of hybrid ambivalence13 does not predicate a dissolution of all identities but rather has to be understood in the context of an everyday life and a struggle that is ordered by identities and institutions. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.