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Tydskrif vir Letterkunde

versión On-line ISSN 2309-9070
versión impresa ISSN 0041-476X

Tydskr. letterkd. vol.45 no.2 Pretoria ene. 2008


Herovering van het paradijs: Het Zuid-Afrikaanse ecotoerisme in ethisch perspectief


An ethical perspective on South African ecotourism



Pawel Zajas

Pawel Zajas is docent in de School of English aan de Adam Mickiewicz Universiteit in Poznan (Polen) en research fellow aan de Universiteit van Pretoria. E-mail:




The paper offers an analysis of an ethnographic perspective on the contemporary status of indigenous tribes of South Africa. The analysis concerns a specific publication Herovering van het paradijs (Paradise reconquered) which constitutes a report on the indigenous peoples of South Africa compiled as an incentive of the Dutch Organization for International Aid (Novib). The paper focuses on the negative perception of tourism in contemporary ethnography recently tending to interpret it as a type of colonialism of a modern kind. The more recent ethnographic account distances itself from the empirical approach, as if allowing the underprivileged to speak for themselves, while it in fact contradicts its initial assumptions. The apparent concern for the authenticity of the indigenous, though unintended, defies any manifestation of cultural hybridization which is, moreover, held to blame, as can be gathered, for the present disastrous condition of the indigenous peoples. The message of the contemporary ethnographic accounts is reinforced by the photos of some modern or "western" items recycled to fit a traditional, e.g., Bushman environment. The above strategy of presentation results in a deliberate reversal of the established order. Its aim is to demonstrate the absurdity involved in the interpenetration of rules and norms valid for different civilizations. In this way, undeniable similarities of cultures are backgrounded while the Bushman self-destructive distinctiveness is foregrounded. As one can conclude, what the authors of the book under scrutiny are aiming at, while claiming the rights to impose their own norms on the local culture, is nothing else but the petrifaction of the mythical tribal condition.

Key words: culture hybridization, ethical paternalism, ethnography of tourism, eurocentrism



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