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Social Darwinism and colonialism

Discuss the extent to which tourism is a neo colonialist activity supported by cultural perceptions based on social Darwinism and colonialism. ‘… the deeply infused culture of relationships between settlers and the colonised, first created in those distant days of ‘discovery’, lingers and casts its stereotyped understandings on the contemporary world. ‘ (Whittaker, Ed. Robinson and Boniface, 1999, p. 33) Mass tourism was introduced in around 1841 when Thomas Cook offered the first package tours including transport and accommodation (Lickorish and Jenkins, 1997 p.17).

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Since then the World Tourism Organisation (www. unwto. org 11/05/07) states that ‘the number of international arrivals shows an evolution from a mere 25 million international arrivals in 1950 to an estimated 806 million in 2005, corresponding to an average annual growth rate of 6. 5%’ Further to this the WTO also states that the ‘international tourism receipts represented in 2003… approximately 30 per cent of worldwide exports of services’. Azarya (2004 p. 949) cites Wood (1997, p. 2) when stating that; ‘…international tourism symbolises globalisation not only in its massive movement of people to virtually every corner of the world but also in its linkage of economic, political and sociocultural elements. ‘

However this movement of people around the globe to various nations can only emphasize the disparity of wealth between the host and guest. It can also highlight differences in culture as suggested by Wijesinghe and Lewis (2005 p. 139) when they point out that; ‘The tourism and hospitality industry brings together hosts and guests from a variety of cultures with different characteristics, expectations, and values.

‘ It is this bringing together of host and guest that has possibly caused various authors (MacCannell, 1992, Nash 1977, Schiller1976, Cited in Saldanha 2002 p. 94) concern as to whether tourism has become a form of imperialism or colonialism. Australia is a perfect study for these points mentioned and special attention will be made to this country within this paper. Further to this, there are many areas that cultural perception can focus on such as the socio-cultural impacts or Doxeys’ index of irritation (Smith. M, 2003 p. 53); probably too many for the scope of this paper, therefore the issue of sex tourism will be focussed upon.

‘Sexual conquest and exploitation were of paramount importance to the European colonizers, who raped and looted their way through the Americas. For more than five hundred years, the sexual labour of women has been embedded in the normal operation of political and economic structures in this part of the world. ‘(Kempadoo 1999, cited in Cabezas, A, 2004). Colonialism cannot be easily defined for as suggested by Horvath (1972 p. 45); ‘The literature on colonialism would appear to have no end. ‘

A brief definition can be provided by the Oxford English Dictionary (1992) as; ‘… a body of people who settle in a new locality, forming a community subject or connected to their parent state,’ but this comes nowhere close to covering the hundreds of years of other nations invading smaller countries. It could also be argued that colonialism is not necessarily a bad thing as suggested by Faulk (1998 p. 53) with regards to countries such as Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) facing civil war after the British gave the country back its independence. However it is defined academically though, it could be seen simply a case of one country invading another and staying for sometime to exploit the resources.

Thus in the last fifty years it could be also seen that tourism has become a kind of new or neo-colonialism in that one country becomes invaded by tourists of one kind or another from another place, to exploit the countries resources . Although, as cited by Smith and Duffy (2003 p. 91) Neale (1999 p. 227) states that; ‘many within the tourism industry would reject such claims outright’ this idea is supported by Alleyne (2006) when reporting that; ‘A Voluntary Service Overseas spokesman said many “year out” programmes were no more than a form of new colonialism in which rich westerners indulged in a form of “charity tourism”.

‘ Further to this Krippendorf (1987 cited in Butcher 2003 p. 100) also asserts that; ‘tourism has a colonial character everywhere and without exception. ‘ Whittaker (Ed. Robinson and Boniface, 1999, p. 33) suggests that the post colonial age ‘… paved the way for new visions about indigenous cultures and inevitably new conflicts. ‘ These conflicts can be caused by the manner in which the tourists, or guests, react to and deal with their hosts as suggested by Gessner and Schade (1990 p. 258) cited by Robinson (Ed.Robinson and Boniface, 1999, p. 8) when they state that; ‘… an already complex situation is exacerbated by ambiguities, lack of awareness and/or the misunderstandings of cultural behaviour standards, of language or of relational dimensions such as confidentiality or status. ‘

It is this dimension of status that concerns the next issue of tourism as a neo colonialist activity. It could be said that the tourist, or colonist, regards the host as somewhat beneath them or in a more subservient position.

Social Darwinism is a concept that was defined by Herbert Spencer and one of the perceptions of Social Darwinists is that they consider some people more fit to survive than others. This perception could be used as an excuse for racism and oppression (Microsoft Encarta Encyclopaedia 1993-97). Bodley (1994 p. 415) indicates that an even more racist view was developed by the Australian geographer Griffith Taylor (1937) in ‘Environment, Race and Migration’ whereby Taylor related the size and shape of the head to intelligence, ignoring any cultural practices that may reform the skull shape.

Bodley (1994 p. 416) further relates how although most anthropologists derided his work; ‘… by 1937 Taylor was pleased to note that German ethnologists were working along similar lines. ‘ This social Darwinism could be a form of ethnocentrism, defined by Haviland (1999 p. 54) as; ‘the belief that one’s own culture is superior to all others. ‘ An exemplar of this behaviour is that of the white Australians when dealing with the indigenous people or aborigines.

‘If there was a race between democratic nations to see who could best address the violation of the human rights (of its original people), Australia would be coming stone motherless last. ‘ Professor Colin Tatz, Genocide Studies Centre, Sydney (Cited in Pilger, 2002, p. 159) There are various case studies and texts that deal with this behaviour and possibly one author in particular, is worthy of close attention. John Pilger (2002) has written an essay; ‘The Chosen People’, dealing with the subjugation of the aboriginal people.

Pilger (2002 p.169) writes that until 1993, when the Native Title Act was passed, the indigenous people did not legally exist due to the supposition by Captain Cook that Australia was uninhabited. This fiction was know as the Terra Nullius and meant that whereas even sheep were counted in various censuses, the aboriginals were ignored and not treated as human. He (Pilger 2002, p. 173) further writes about the genocide of the aborigines in the early 20th century citing Taylor (1997) who stated that; ‘By 1920, the indigenous people had been reduced from at lat 120,000 to 20,000; this involved at least 10,000 direct killings.

‘ Whittaker (Ed. Robinson and Boniface, 1999, p. 35) reports that in March 1992, the Mabo and Others v. the State of Queensland decision rewrote colonialism, in that the previous mentioned idea of Terra Nullius could not exist if the land was indeed occupied prior to colonisation. Further to this, Cowlishaw (2006 p. 439) states that; ‘In the past an entrenched hierarchy secured both Black and White identities but the rules for establishing racial superiority and historical legitimacy have changed over the decades. ‘


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