Tourism, Identity and Economy in a Magyar Village from Romania

By Iorga, Alexandru | Journal of Community Positive Practices, April 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Tourism, Identity and Economy in a Magyar Village from Romania


Iorga, Alexandru, Journal of Community Positive Practices


Abstract: Using field data I will try to explore the mechanisms of identity construction through tourism, in a Magyar village from Romania, focusing on two dimensions of the tourism: cultural and economic. On the one hand I bring arguments that the village is an ethnic enclave, and that the tourism practiced here is a cultural/identitary one. On the other hand, I am trying to show that the tourism as it is practiced here is adopted by the community as a strategy for local development. However, some implicit aspects of this process can be seen as pertaining more to an "ethnic economy" (I. Light). In the final part of the paper I will try to discuss the applicability and relevance of the definition of the ethnic economy given by Ivan Light, within the context of this village.

Keywords: Magyars [from Romania]; tourism; enclave; "ethnic economy"; Ivan Light.

1. Introduction

Starting from the general theories about tourism, I will discuss about the theoretical implications, socio-economic and socio-cultural, both for the host (destination) and for the tourists, trying to make a profile of the tourism in Coltau village. These two dimensions of the impact of tourism were selected considering that they can describe and analyse best the situation from Coltau village, thinking that the cultural dimension (particularly the ethnic one) and the economic dimension are intercorrelated, interacting and influencing mutually on a permanent basis. Of course, one of the most interesting aspects concerns the mutual interaction.

The analysis will focus on several questions such as: is the tourism practiced in Coltau village, a cultural, identitary, thus "ethnic" tourism? If yes, which are the elements defining it and which are the consequences of this thing?

In the second part of the article, using the theories which debate the socio-economic implications of the tourism, I will discuss the directions for [economic] change at the local, "community" level. One of the stakes is the question whether this case is a case of community development or not. Going further, and through the prism of the theories on the "ethnic economy" and "economy of ethnic enclave" (Light) I will formulate several questions about the situation from Coltau village, bringing into discussion the mentioned theories and their capacity of applicability, therefore of generalization.

2. Tourism and tourists in the field literature

The purpose of this paper is not an elaborate incursion into the, more or less arid, field literature on the history and origin of tourism and on the concept of "tourism". We will also not approach the polemic on tourism as anthropologic subject (see Nash, 1981 and Burns, 2004). However, some clarifications are necessary.

The concept of "tourism" was proposed in the field literature by the definition of the people of practicing this activity, i.e. by the definition of tourists. Well, what is the tourist? "A tourist is a person, in his/her spare time who, voluntarily visits a place remote from his/her residence, with the purpose to experiment a change" (Smith, 1989, p. 2 cited by Stronza, 2001, p. 265). Of course, questions were asked on what drives these people to travel, with what purpose, who they are, which their sociocultural characteristics are, etc. The case studies so far proposed a range of answers and put new questions, delimiting types of tourism, implicitly of tourists. For instance, Erik Cohen, in a paper from 1984, was identifying eight "conceptual" approaches which he considered important for the study of tourism. I will just enumerate them here: "tourism as commercialised hospitality"; "tourism as democratic way of travelling"; "tourism as modern way of spending the free time"; ""tourism as modern variety of the traditional pilgrimages"; "tourism as expression of the basic cultural themes"; "tourism as a process of acculturation"; "tourism as a type of ethnic relationship"; "tourism as a form of neo-colonialism" (Cohen, 1984, pp. …

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