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The Commoditization of Culture in Tourism

1. Emergent Authenticity and commoditization

The commoditization of culture is a complex and contested phenomenon. It can be defined as the process by which cultural products and practices are turned into commodities that can be bought and sold in the market (MacCannell, 1999). This process often leads to the loss of meaning and value of the cultural products and practices being commoditized. The commoditization of culture has been linked with various aspects of tourism, including the development of tourist products and services, the construction of tourist landscapes, and the use of local people as performers or guides ( Cohen, 1988; Gibson & Hebbert, 1988; Graburn, 1989).

The term “commoditization” is often used in a negative way to describe the negative effects of tourism on culture. However, it is important to note that commoditization is not always a bad thing. In some cases, the commoditization of culture can lead to the “emergent authenticity” of a cultural product or practice (MacCannell, 1999). Emergent authenticity refers to the new meanings and values that are generated when a cultural product or practice is commoditized. For example, when Mayan ruins are turned into tourist attractions, they gain a new authenticity as archaeological sites that are significant to Maya heritage (Bruner, 1994). Similarly, when indigenous American artifacts are sold as curios in tourist shops, they gain a new authenticity as valuable cultural objects ( Graburn, 1989).

2. The Impact of commoditization on Local Traditions

The commoditization of culture can have both positive and negative impacts on local traditions. On the one hand, commoditization can lead to the “emergent authenticity” of a cultural product or practice (MacCannell, 1999). For example, when Mayan ruins are turned into tourist attractions, they gain a new authenticity as archaeological sites that are significant to Maya heritage (Bruner, 1994). Similarly, when indigenous American artifacts are sold as curios in tourist shops, they gain a new authenticity as valuable cultural objects (Graburn, 1989). On the other hand, commoditization can also lead to the loss of meaning and value of a cultural product or practice. For example, when local people are used as performers or guides for tourists, they may lose their connection to their own traditions and culture (Cohen, 1988; Gibson & Hebbert, 1988).

3. Mayan Ruins as Commodities in Belize

The Maya ruins in Belize were once sacred places where Maya ceremonies were performed and where Maya kings were buried. Today, these same ruins have been turned into tourist attractions and are being marketed as commodity products by the tourism industry in Belize. As Bruner (1994) notes, the transformation of the Maya ruins into tourist attractions has led to the “emergent authenticity” of these archaeological sites. The Maya ruins are now seen as authentic archaeological sites that are significant to Maya heritage.

4. The Curio Trade and the commoditization of Indigenous American Artifacts

The curio trade is another example of how indigenous American artifacts have been commoditized by the tourism industry. Curios are souvenirs that are made from Indigenous American artifacts such as pottery figures, rugs, baskets, and jewelry. These souvenirs are typically sold in tourist shops and are marketed to tourists as “authentic” Indigenous American products. However, as Graburn (1989) notes, the curio trade has led to the commoditization of Indigenous American artifacts, which has in turn led to the loss of meaning and value of these objects.

5. The Political Economy of Cultural Aspects of Tourism

The commoditization of culture is not just an economic phenomenon; it also has political and sociological implications. The political economy of tourism is a complex and contested field of study. It includes the examination of how tourism development is shaped by economic, political, and social factors (Cohen, 1988; Gibson & Hebbert, 1988; Graburn, 1989). The sociology of tourism is another branch of research that examines how tourism development affects the lives of local people (Cohen, 1988; Gibson & Hebbert, 1988).

6. The Sociology of commoditization

The sociology of commoditization is a branch of research that examines how the commoditization of culture affects the lives of local people. As Cohen (1988) notes, the use of local people as performers or guides for tourists can lead to the loss of connection to their own traditions and culture. Similarly, Gibson and Hebbert (1988) argue that the construction of tourist landscapes can lead to the displacement of local people from their homes and land.

7. Conclusion

The commoditization of culture is a complex and contested phenomenon with economic, political, and sociological implications. While commoditization can lead to the “emergent authenticity” of a cultural product or practice, it can also lead to the loss of meaning and value of the cultural product or practice being commoditized. In order to fully understand the impacts of commoditization, it is necessary to examine how this process affects different aspects of tourism development, including the construction of tourist products and services, the construction of tourist landscapes, and the use of local people as performers or guides.

FAQ

Tradition plays an important role in commodification by providing a sense of history and authenticity to products.

Commodification can have a negative effect on the negotiation of tradition by causing traditional values to be lost or watered down in the process of mass production and marketing.

The benefits of commodifying tradition include the ability to generate income and exposure for traditional culture, while the drawbacks include the potential for exploitation and loss of meaning.

It is important to strike a balance between preserving tradition and accommodating change in order to maintain the integrity of both cultural traditions and individual identity.

Some factors that should be considered when deciding whether or not to commodify a particular aspect of culture include its historical significance, value to the community, and potential for exploitation.

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