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Asian Journal of Tourism Research







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Chiang Mai University


The late 20th century landscape of tourism and ethnicity studies in insular Southeast Asia has tended to emphasize a set of dominant themes, including ethnic commoditization in tourism and tourist arts; the politics of touristic ethnicity; tourism and cultural development; and the performative dimension of inter- and intra-ethnic touristic encounters. How have these earlier research themes transformed in our current era of intensified neoliberalism, cyber-connectivity and mobility? This article draws from the title of the blockbuster 2010 film Eat Pray Love (partially set in Bali) to highlight several emergent 21st century themes that bear relevance for our understanding of the interplay between tourism and ethnicity in insular Southeast Asia. Starting with "eating", I outline how the increasing appeal and rhetoric of the slow and sustainable food movements offers a promising avenue for scholarship on tourism and ethnicity, opening up new lines of research spotlighting the multisensory dimensions of touristic ethnicity, as well as the ties between food, ethno-cultural sensibilities and visions of morality. Turning to the theme of "praying", the article explores emergent research on religious and spiritually-inspired tourism in insular Southeast Asia. I also discuss the need to better understand how the post 9-11 and post-Bali bombing era of heightened religious identity-consciousness in insular Southeast Asia (as well as on the part of travelers) bears relevance for emergent dynamics pertaining to tourism and ethnicity. Finally, I turn to examine the third component of the film’s title, "love" and its relevance for novel insights into tourism and ethnicity in contemporary island Southeast Asia. I draw on this final term loosely as a springboard for considering the need to better explore the realm of the emotions in our studies of tourism and ethnicity. Here, I underscore the need for further nuanced studies of tourists who take on or celebrate idealized identities of ethnic Others, either through marriage, emulation, or by partaking in festival tourism. I also address some of the complex emotional ambivalence regarding ethnic heritage experienced by Southeast Asian diaspora tourists and return migrant tourists. Throughout the article I illustrate some of the potentials and challenges entailed in these new avenues of inquiry with reference to recent anthropological and sociological work in various parts of island Southeast Asia. I also draw on examples and illustrations from my on-going research on far-flung Toraja (Indonesian) migrants whose recreational returns to the homeland for family visits and international festivals entail varied re-imaginings of identity and ethno-cultural heritage.




Author Posting © Asian Journal of Tourism Research, 2016. This article is posted here by permission of the Centre for Asian Tourism Research, Research Admininstration Center, Chiang Mai University for personal use, not for redistribution. The article was published in Asian Journal of Tourism Research , Vol. 1, Iss. 1, June 2016,

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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