Korstanje Maximiliano E.

University of Palermo, Argentina, Visiting Fellow at CERS, University of Leeds, UK

Lourdes Cisneros Mustelier

University of La Habana, Cuba

Sylvia Herrera

UDET, Quito Ecuador


The present essay review, though shorter than the piece I am accustomed to write, focuses on the commonalities between tourism and archaeology. At a closer look, we are taught tourism is a commercial activity, sometimes hedonist or naïve that entertains lay people. Rather, archaeology signals to a serious academic discipline, enrooted in the quest for truth. Nonetheless, archaeology and tourism shares the similarly-minded cultural values, the reconstruction of past. Our thesis rests on the idea that the tourist gaze searches for the ideological message to remind its superiority over other cultures or peripheral voices. In addition, it is important to note that tourists and archaeologists need from the same degree of exceptionality and novelty to validate their status to others

Keywords: Quest, Archaeology, Tourism, History, Past-time


As a scientific discipline, archaeology has substantially contributed to the maturation of tourism industry (Robb, 1998; Rowan & Baram, 2004). Many archaeological sites and ruins are today recycled as growing tourist attractions. Over years, as a serious alternative archaeology takes the opposite direction respecting to the leisure or entertainment industry where tourism is embedded with. In this essay review, we explore not only into the dichotomy between imagination and self-perception, but on the commonalities tourism and archaeology share. As lay-people, visitors encounter many objects and pieces that belonged to others. The function of these objects remains unknown unless by the discourse of archaeologists. In some extent, tourists are subjects to the story elaborated by experts (Rubio, 2006). The specialized literature reminds that tour guides serve as mediators between expertise and ignorance. Lay-people know further on how past civilisations lived thanks to archaeology (Cohen, 1985).

Discussing the quests for novelty archaeology is tracked with the needs to explore the problem of authenticity. Therefore, this essay review is two-pronged. On one hand, it delves into the roots of western gaze which expropriate the “others” not only according with previous visual allegories fabricated in the centre, but forging what Tzanelli dubbed as “the cosmology of riches” (Tzanelli 2015). On another hand, the concept of authenticity as it was formulated by westerners is being placed under the lens of scrutiny. We are prone to sacralise past thinking the golden age is a better time than the present. This axiom explains not only our quest for authenticity but also why historians are adamantly fascinated by ancient civilizations. Readers who come across with this text will find a critical discussion on the role played by authenticity in our current cosmology.

During XIXth century, the first ethnographers who arrived to colonies not only concerned on the effects of war, the arbitrariness of colonial powers to exploit aborigines or to pillage their wealth, in what they considered would be the disappearance of their cultures and traditions. At time, anthropologists involuntarily documented the aboriginal life the resulted information was passed to colonial officials to strengthen the colonization process. This type of new paternalism, which accompanied anthropology from its outset, was conducive to the European imaginary of the “Otherness” that inspired literature, travel-writings and other literary genre. In parallel, it is important not to lose the sight that one of the missions of colonial order was not only to pacify the colonized regions, but also imposing restrictions over aborigines to make the war with their neighbors. Thought in terms of control, pacification alluded to a necessary instrument to avoid the inter-tribal wars in the colonized overseas territories. As a result of this, the colonial-law accelerated the development of extractive institutions to ship the precious materials to Europe, returning elaborated goods in exchange. In doing so, the war among neighbors should be prohibited. With the advent of decolonization process, this romantic view about heritage and war took opposite channels. Anthropology witnessed how the pacification imposed by European overseas Leviathans in Americas and Africa disarticulated one of tenets of human organization, the capacity to conduct the war (Harrison, 1997; Kelly & Kaplan, 2001).

Sleeping with the Past

At a first glance, any archaeologist looks for an object whose signification keeps open but no less true is that the same does not happen with tourists who receive the meaning of the object as previously fabricated. If the former should imagine by finding the evidence to be validated, the latter one does not place the story under the lens of scrutiny. Quite aside from this, both maintain similar functionalities in the capitalist world.

History is witness how science has been ideologically manipulated to support the colonial enterprise (Korstanje, 2012). The first anthropologists departed from their metropolis towards the fieldwork as the protectors of non-western cultures. The European imaginaries introduced the belief that primitive cultures will disappear before the advance of industrialism. The main goal of anthropology was to create a reservoir of non-western cultures which were in bias of extinction. Not only their clothes and objects but also their lore should be preserved to fall into the oblivion. The problem, precisely, was that governors and officials employed the information generated by ethnologists to protect their own interests (Stocking, 1968; Geertz, 1992; Harris, 2001; Korstanje, 2012). The goodwill of social scientists was used by politicians and military forces to know further about the ‘noble savages’. This was undoubtedly the context where anthropology and archaeology evolved as academic careers. The situation of these disciplines was a paradox in many senses. At the time there was no discipline that rejected the ethnocentrism as anthropology and ethnology; they inadvertently helped to the consolidation of colonialism (Clifford, 1988).

From its onset, archaeology not only over-valorised the figure of history and pastime, but considered the linear evolution of societies as the only valid paradigm (Boas, 1904). Time was of paramount importance to determine the change of an agrarian society into an industrial one. This discipline paved the pathways for the creation of museum (Korstanje, 2013). For archaeology, every culture was subject to an irreversible change due to the advance of industrialism. To protect them from disappearance, the western paternalism focused on the needs of classifying, collecting and stocking customs of non-western cultures. European paternalism was based on two main ideas: first and most important, the identity and culture marked the superiority of ones over others. Secondly, superior cultures (in this case industrial ones) should show an exemplary behaviour mitigating the negative effects of their advance. This reminds that, at some extent, the needs of protection and paternalism were inextricably intertwined (Guber, 2001). A senior archaeologist as Matt Edgeworth (2006) argued that archaeology was consolidated as a scientific discipline in the ways others cultures are produced, but ignoring its own nesting in the western culture. May we equal the anthropological journey with leisure?.

In a recent book, Charlie Mansfield (2015) professor and ethnographer of Plymouth University UK, observed that capitalism has expanded by cloning objects enlarging a gap between the original and its copycat. Recreating the conditions to imagine specific landscapes, literature paved the ways for the consolidation of heritage. In this vein, three major events were of importance in the consolidation of professional literary networks, which prompted people to travel:

a) From XVth century onwards, the mechanization of book reproduction accelerated not only the times and ciphers of published books, but also the interests of global audiences for inter-continental events.

b) The tradition of story-telling adopted by European Renaissance has been a major issue in the adoption of literary tradition.

c) Lastly, the advance of technologies and breakthroughs in the transport system shortened in a global interconnected world.

Tourism industry and its interests are based on the exploitation of value, producing a satisfactory experience on visitors. This suggests that the concept of place branding has been characterized the policy makers goals and the potentiality for literature, and above all, French literature. The European Novel not only represents a new type of socialization enrooted into a romantic view of nation, even in the context of digital technology, but induces individual consumers to a much broader narrative fiction previously determined by the type of experience it looked (Mansfield 2015). This begs a more than interesting question, why is West interested in novelties and the “others”?.

The Quest for Novelty in the Western Thought

The anthropological travel is the needs of discovery, as an encounter with others based on solidarity and trust. Unlike a tourist, ethnologist faced serious emotional problems to draw the otherness (Irwin, 2007). Although archaeology confers a special value to the culture of aborigines to boost the social self-esteem and attachment for tradition, the fact is that aboriginal communities are excluded from that construction. The concept of identity as well as culture is externally imposed to local tribes (Karlsson & Gustafsson, 2006). In this vein, J. Bateman (2006) acknowledges the archaeological discovery triggers tactics of destruction and constructions that delineate the production of knowledge. Created by other experts, protocols give legitimacy to the discovered object. The archaeological practice not only looks, but also rescues to the piece to be showed and admired.

As the previous argument given, it is important to discuss to what extent tourism and archaeology pay attention to the same interests. Both are embedded with the cultural matrix that confers meaning to their practices. These matrixes are aimed at framing and legitimizing the world of labour. Even if, archaeology starts from imagining on a condition which is given as closed to tourists, the object is the same for either. Like tourists, archaeologists seek for ideals such as uniqueness, novelty and exemplarity. The success of an investigation depends on the value of the piece, which is determined by its novelty. The tourist-eye will sacralise or reject the –rescued- object following its needs of control and classification. At disposal of tourist-gaze in terms of Urry, the archaeological object is classified by means of its value. Tourists expropriate the landscape by employing their camera, while archaeologists use other instrument. At the bottom, both introduce technology to construct a one-sided discourse of the world.

Secondly, the cultural appropriation seems to play a vital role in the process of sacralisation. Whether the archaeology should reconstruct the past without accuracy, tourists often take for granted the interpretation given by archaeologists. In this respect, tourists have a fabricated object, which are recovered by archaeology, to consume. The previous ignorance respecting to the discovery alludes to fulfil the gap with stories, which are more or less credible or real. What would be more than interesting to debate is the obsession of archaeologist by authenticity. Any archaeologist is a mystery tourist. As Thomas Yarrow (2006) put it, anthropology has denounced the indifference and lack of reflexively of archaeology respecting to local agency. The social interaction is for them an obstacle to discover the treasure. Once the desired object is found, the archaeologist stops the search. The interaction with native is limited to the goals of research. This means that archaeologist does not delve in human interaction lest in an instrumental way. Tourists meet with other to enhance their own ego, exactly in the same manner than archaeologists. If we valorise the otherness only by its scientific interests, like tourism, this leads to the exploitation instead of cooperation. Ethnology and archeology worked in cojoint to establish an image of the others, which is conducive to imperial exploitation.

The aristocracies, in our respective countries, devoted considerable efforts to create a subordinated image of the non-white Other (aborigine). In doing so, European vision of civilizations were imported and widely accepted not only to impose an ideological discourse that controls the workforce, but also modify the traditional historiography. The literature played a vital role in configuring a dependency in the intellectuals respecting to Europe. It consisted in what Korstanje and Skoll (2013) called “the epicentre of imperialism”. However, may we precise how our concept of curiosity emerged?.

David Riesman (2001) , a Senior sociologist and a great mind, envisaged history into three relevant stages. Although he realized the “industrial revolution” brought a radical rupture with tradition (developing the power of middle-class), it is important not to lose the sight to the changes culture suffers. Then, he conceptualized three types of cultures, tradition-directed, inner-directed and other-directed. At some extent, the evolution from one stage to another is not unilateral but circular. Empires may adopt an other-directed type (no matter the times), while others organizations such as hunters-gatherers developed a tradition-directed form of adaptation. Basically, tradition-oriented subtype corresponds with societies structured on the laws long-established from immemorial times, as for example, medieval communities. The protestant reform paves the ways for the advent of a new culture, more “inner-oriented”, where the subject rises up. Confident of their skills, these citizens adopted the discovery as a valid source to break with Medieval Order. However, with the upsurge of Industrial revolution, things changed a lot. A new, “other-oriented” culture expanded to consolidate the hegemony of nation-state worldwide. Unlike the other two, this subtype was based on an extreme increase of good-exchange and trade. The subject began to negotiate with others its being in this world. People not only were prone to what happened with the Other, but also attempted to gain the Other acceptance (approval).

Discussing Authenticity

For some reasons, from its onset tourism was inextricably interlinked to authenticity, and of course reviewing the literature on authenticity seems to be not only a titanic task, but also a project that exceeds the time and space of this review. Quite aside from this, we have clear that the concept of authenticity is enrooted in the scientific gaze, which means the needs of revealing what is true. Though Dean Maccannell (2003) was a pioneer to study the role of authenticity in the shamanism tourism generates for western societies other interesting works should be noted. At some extent, touristic gaze was conceived as the seeking after of authenticity (Cohen 1972; MacCannell 1973; Urry, 1992). Perception of the authenticity of the experience is an important mediating variable affecting tourist satisfaction. In fact, touristic space itself is structured to satisfy the desire for authentic experiences that motivate touristic consciousness (MacCannell 1973, 2011; Korstanje & Busby, 2010). Slogans without the word ‘real’ or terms synonymous with it are atypical in mass tourism promotional devises. Let things straights, this review is enrooted in what is the philosophical realism of post-Marxist philosophy. The points of entry here are based in the legacy of senior philosophers as Merleu-Ponty, or nihilists as Slavoj Zizek. Its goal, additionally are twofold. On one hand we discuss philosophically the nature and resulted function of authenticity through the lens of postmodern reader. Secondly, we launch to what an extent an ethic for authenticity, as it has been formulated by Maccannell is feasible. The point of entry in this text is that authenticity has a construe that creates a parallel (disruption) between the objects. At the time we say some object is authentic others turns unauthentic. The separateness given by authenticity engenders a gap which is fulfilled by mass consumption and hedonism. Humans, in this postmodern world, are objectified for what they may consume, their status, or purchasing power. In a moment of our cosmology where only money matters, marketing and management have become in the more authorative voices. Psychology which years ago were a science employed to guide behaviour set the pace to marketing and product-design. What would be interesting to discuss from the philosophy is how the circulation of goods in the global capital depends on the concept of authenticity. Today, aboriginal cultures and their traditions are being commoditized according to a demand externally designed (Comaroff & Comaroff, 2012). The allegory of authenticity allows the expansion of stereotypes, which works as a trade union representative. Its voice does not necessarily represent the opinion of the union, but only mediating between the workers and capital owners. The same happens with authenticity. As modelled by late-capitalism, it does not represent the reality. It is only a commodity else which can be moulded to forge identity in the citizen’s mind.

Most visuals employ metaphors traditionally or stereotypically associated with the authentic: the third-world countryside and its greenery, indigenous people in exotic costumes, and so on. And, no doubt, this is absolutely demand-driven. Why we associate the authenticity with the Fourth-world?. This essay review intends to locate the discussion of authenticity in the correct place, examining not only its conceptual limitations but also inconsistencies. One of the aspects introduced by capitalism as an axiom was that we live as autonomous agents rational and dynamic pursuing and protecting our own interests. This conferred to the experts the monopoly of knowledge production. Unlike medieval times, where people had introspection, now we have to ask a third person such as a therapist, a doctor or any other expert, to opine about us (Schmitt, 1995; Kornblith, 2000; Goldman 2000). Though we must recognize much research is needed, this was possible thanks to the introduction of one ideological mechanism, separateness as an expression of objectivity which gradually led to the dichotomy between authenticity vs. staged-autenthencity.

One dominant characteristic of the present generation is the ‘new elite’ travelers who were born and brought up in the urban areas, among surroundings alienated and perverted, in the industrial landscape of the work-a-day world. While a cream of them happened to be fortunate enough to have listened from their grand parents or so stories of human life intermingling with fowl and brute in the idyllic, pristine countryside unaffected by the smoke and dust of heavy industries, for the vast majority, the only source influential in help shaping conceptions of authenticity is the all-pervading influence of the mass media complex. Given the quantum of impact the modern mass media has in shaping individuals’ and society’s conception of authenticity, an issue that is indeed worth exploring is the nature and characteristics of the media scripted authenticity: is there any ontological togetherness between the more traditional understanding of the term and its neo-modern variant, how subjective experiences are different when the gaze is for the media-constructed reality.

Authenticity Reconsidered

Philosophers from time immemorial have been puzzled by the riddle of the authentic: Is there something which is authentic and if at all the answer is yes is it possible to experience the same? (Chomsky, 2000; Kolbel, 2002; Hollis, 2011). Taking cues from far back in time, dominant schools of Indian thought declared that everything but the supreme spirit (Brahman) is an illusion (Maya); that it is ignorance (Avidya) which misguides us to believe that forms and relations of existence are real and that every soul strives for liberation (Nirvana) from this tangle of illusions. But, such strivings fall short most often since human mind is too complexly illusioned to overcome.

Over decades, existentialism evinced the authenticity-seekers are prone to madness or mental illness. This happens because not only the sense of authenticity breaks the ideal of normalcy but assumes the external world is a fiction. The logic of causality that orders the events is upended. By embracing un-authenticity, the self covers its vulnerability respecting to others. In other terms, we are educated to neglect the real truth because it is unbearable. One of the dilemmas of authenticity rests on the problem it generates. At time, the fiction gives a shelter to the self, the possibility of making a decision is undermined. Rather, if we break the cocoon of fiction, madness surfaces. The point of entry that existentialist brought is that the quest for authenticity allows the adoption of new “fabricated identities” (McMahon, 2005). The paradox is given by the evidence at time we look for authenticity, what we discover is unauthentic. The Greek myth of the princess “Psyche” here is self-explanatory. She is visited all nights by Eros with the caution she never would discover his veil and see to their eyes. After several encounters Psyche falls in love of Eros, though she never sees his face. Her sisters Orual and Thessela tricked her in the belief Eros was a “monster”. They convinced Psyche to unveil the mask of Eros in one of the night meetings. Finally Eros left the princess for ever because of her curiosity. The result of this love was “voluptas”, which symbolizes the nature curiosity of the mind. Following this philosophical view, the curiosity for experiencing “authenticity” paradoxically leads people to face the opposite. The quest for authenticity is also an impossible project.

Dominant epistemological designs of shifting paradigms from time to time have influenced the thinkers of society in their manner of approaching the issue of authenticity (Taylor, 1991; Tzanelli, 2003). If defining a concept means going back to the past and looking at the different stages and societies it has gone through, realizing the difficulty to explain the word authenticity is yet an element of its own definition (Wang, 1999). Trilling (1972) noted that even while it is so intrinsic to the tourism phenomena, authenticity is an ambiguous term that resists definition. In the study of tourism, authenticity can either be the authenticity of the observed tourist object or the authenticity of the tourist’s first person experience (Wang 1999). The conception of authenticity has undergone three or more major shifts over the past fifty years, with objectivist framings giving way to social construction perspectives and, later, existentialist and postmodern ones. The last one-third of the bygone century witnessed postmodernists, some of whom argued that nothing worth naming as authenticity is purely unqualified and that claims for authenticity should at best go into inverted commas (Urry 1990). The increasing acceptance of the post-postmodern paradigm of critical realism as a bridge between the modernist and the postmodernist perspectives is another interesting development in the contemporary debates on authenticity. One of the dilemmas of heritage is precisely to what an extent heritage may express the sharing values of a society. History as experiences is in ongoing movement. Their change is subject to many factors. By imposing stability in human relations, some philosophers think the resulted product is unauthentic. Political discourses are enthralled in heritage to gain more legitimacy to citizenry (Guidotti-Hernandez, 2011).

As the previous argument given, Cohen (1985) says that the search for authenticity varies in direct proportion with the increasing level of alienation felt in a society. Tourists may go in search of unspoiled natives surrounded by landscapes of pristine beauty because these are absent in their advanced society (van Den Berghe and Keyes 1984), but conditioned by those ways as determined by the forces of their social shaping. For the early MacCannell (1973), authenticity in tourism products such as festivals, rituals, dress codes and so on can be determined straightly in terms of whether those are made or enacted by local people according to tradition. Such a position has every pitfall of inferring ontology from epistemological cues. While accepting the ultimate inability of an outsider to penetrate the destination culture, Boorstin (1961) points out that holidaymakers knowingly consume pseudo and contrived events to authentic cross-cultural encounters. Levy-Strauss (1989) writes that he is amazed at the will of tourists to believe the sacred fantasy as reality and to resist any other real as even potentially possible. Last but not least, a comparative study to measure the perception of authenticity among visitors of ‘The Rocks’, a historical neighborhood in Australia was made by Waitt (2000) which revealed important differences in the perceived level of authenticity related to gender, age, and place of residence. McKercher and du Cros (2002) argued that the Japanese happily accept faked tangible heritage assets. The tourist has become the symbol of a peculiar type of inauthenticity himself (Redfoot 1984). Probably, as the old wisdom goes, truth grows inversely proportional to sacredness. Undoubtedly, marketers and tourism-management found in heritage and authenticity two majors arguments to sell their products. In a world characterized by tolerance, plurality and multiculturalism it is good to visit other communities, by integrating the otherness. In view of that, Tzanelli is not wrong when confirms this surface discourse is only aimed at tracking attention of investors and consumers, but blue collar workers and migrants still face serious obstacles to their entrance to first world (Tzanelli, 2003). This begs a more than interesting question, is authenticity the maiden of marketing discipline?.


Besides, It is noteworthy that the production of knowledge through the manipulation of past, which is based on the western paternalism, supports the archaeology to present the object to be visually consumed by tourists. The ideological discourse beyond the boundaries of science corresponds with a tacit strategy of indoctrination, where the sense of discovery plays a vital role. Certainly, the logic of discovery would never exist without the production and fabrication of codes and interpretations. The technology of mystification, proper of museums, works precisely because it confers an exorbitant value of exchange to some objects (relics) –AUTHENTIC- while others are depreciated. At the museums, relics are put aside from the formal economic circuit of exchanges, at the time copy-cats emulate their values for givers and receivers. In terms of A. Weiner (1992), authentic objects discovered by science are sacralised to the extent to become in an inalienable thing, banned to be sold and bought in the forma trade. In the tourist’s mind, a special attachment wakes up for the copycat. This was one of the aspects widely studied by Dean Maccannell, although he misunderstood the reasons behind. The copycat is not created by tourism industry unless by the intervention of modern science. Archaeology makes from authenticity, truth and what can be explainable its primary values. Last but not least, the paradox lies in the connection between production and discovery. Once something authentic is found its counter-value the staged authenticity surfaces.

It is not the main goal of this review to critique the basis of truth and history, but explains the episteme which by thousand of visitors (far way of being considered alienated people) devote considerable time in visiting museums and relics produced by archaeology. The tourist gaze searches for the ideological message to remind its superiority over other cultures or peripheral voices. In addition, it is important to note that tourists and archaeologists need from the same degree of exceptionality and novelty to validate their status to others. Any museum, as a political dispositif of control, reminds us two significant aspects of life. The first signals to the needs to control the passing of time. The second is characterized by what Louis Pratt denominates the Imperial-eyes. The gaze of western traveller, which has been historically supported by the archaeological discourse, not only alludes to mark the others to control them, but also avoid any type of label on itself. In other terms, the act of protecting others may be equalled to preclude that one is smarter, stronger and superior in many other aspects or simply stand in higher conditions of production than the protected natives. This suggests that likely tourists are not so idiots as they are portrayed as well as archaeologists do not represent the objective voice of science. Both are exchangeable agents of imperialism.


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