Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Fig. 15.6. Local museums, displaying cultural stratigraphy and complexity. Copyright Maria Cardeira da
juxtapose different items together, quoting frag-
ments and disjointed narratives characteristic of
some postmodernist approaches.
The irony and paradox of these encounters
are not innocuous nor shall they be carelessly
equated with mere recreational optimism so
characteristically postmodern. Touristic encoun-
ters must be taken as seriously as any other
intercultural encounter. Furthermore, while
these happen in an atmosphere of leisure and
ephemerality for some - which might justify
the thoughtlessness of some theoretical appro-
aches - they actually imply hard work for oth-
ers. Accordingly, you need to go beyond the
mere ideal of a mutual gaze. The effects of the
mutual gaze are not only reciprocal or, even less
so, symmetrical.
so because, in order to understand 'local culture',
you cannot ignore the economic, social, racial,
and gender and other identity differentiation
frameworks, within which it is produced and
reproduced. Now, a fi ne mirror of that micro-
scopic negotiation is precisely the guestbooks
and placards displayed in the small lodges that
have mushroomed in response to the new oppor-
tunities that nomads/tourists have brought.
Although some classic anthropology has
perhaps exaggerated the importance - by reify-
ing it - of hospitality in Arab and Mediterranean
societies, it cannot be dismissed in a framework
such as the one we encounter in Mauritanian
tourism. In fact, recapturing its importance,
after the undertow of hypercriticism of the
1980s, may be one of the key elements to
understand some apparently surprising contem-
porary phenomena.
To fi nd a shortcut to a process that is very
hard to summarize, I shall follow the case of
Zeida - a young black woman, divorced and
mother of two - who, in the adverse context of
the Adrar, which is eminently male, Moorish
and where age is one of the main sources for
status, has won respect, admiration and prestige
Guestbooks and placards
The results of touristic encounters for local cul-
tural reconstruction are better observed by micro-
ethnographies that witness them at the level of
identity negotiations currently going on. This is
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