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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Commoditization of indigenous cultures through tourism Karajaoja, Ritva


This essay looks at cultural commoditization by indigenous people in Third World countries in response to tourism. The common assumption is that commoditization invalidates a culture and that it somehow becomes inauthentic. I show that even though the Indians of the Peruvian highlands sell their “Indianess” for tourists to photograph, the real commoditization takes place by mestizos who appropriate Indian culture: their dress, rituals, handicrafts. The Indians and mestizos are both trying to maximize their share of tourism revenue, little of which actually gets to the highlands. Neither culture, however, becomes inauthentic in the process. While the meanings of cultural products may be altered over time, no culture is static and fixed in time: new meanings are relevant within the context of contemporary society.

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