Competing "Host" Discourses: Appropriation of Australian Aboriginal Culture in the Tourism Borderzones
Mroczek, Kristine R.
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As one of the largest global industries (WTTC, 2012), tourism is a powerful force in shaping intercultural knowledge (Bunten, 2010; Causey, 2003; Diamond, 2011). Through marketing and globally projected websites, government tourism authorities are often the dominant voice influencing outsiders’ perceptions of the people and cultures of a tourism destination. These are particularly powerful narratives when the government uses indigenous peoples as a means to differentiate the nation from other tourism locations. These representations can perpetuate stereotypes of Aboriginal people for outsiders, while simultaneously influencing how those living within the tourism destination see themselves and their place in society (cf., Adams, 2006; Little, 2004). This project examines the Australian tourism industry and how Aboriginal art and culture are used to mediate national (and Aboriginal) identity. In a place that has incorporated Aboriginal fine art into their national identity, it is a particularly intriguing place to examine how Aboriginal art is upheld as part of the national culture, when in many ways Aboriginal people have been removed from the equation. I interrogate the centers of power by comparing the dominant tourism industry’s representations of Aboriginal art and culture, to the narratives and semiotic productions of Australian tourism intermediaries on the ground. I am interested in those less studied but equally important moments where local tourism “hosts” not working for the government tourism authority produce their own representations for tourism. I use critical discourse analysis and semiotic approaches to analyze Tourism Australia and their affiliates’ websites, my field notes taken during participant observations and interviews, transcribed recorded interviews, and tourism arts labeling. I approach this project with a critical intercultural communication lens, where culture is not just a neutral concept, nor is it essentialized as part of the nation, but it is “always and already implicated in power relations where differently positioned subjects and social entities (e.g., the nationstate) compete for advantage and control of the process of meaning production” (Halualani, Drzewiecka, & Mendoza, 2003 in Halualani & Nakayama, 2011). I argue that there are competing “host” discourses that are constructing—as well as de- and co-constructing—Aboriginal culture for the Australian tourism industry. The various hosts’ stakes are foregrounded through these (re)presentations constructed for the tourism industry. In addition, I demonstrate how hosts communicating from the “bottom up” are powerful participants in producing self-representations through Aboriginal culture that resist the dominant tourism authority’s narratives.
- Communications