Othering, Power Relations, and Indigenous Tourism: Experiences in Australia’s Northern Territory

Katie Bresner


Indigenous tourism is characterized by the involvement of Indigenous peoples in tourism activities, either through ownership or the centrality of their cultures in a tourist attraction or destination. While Indigenous-themed and Indigenous-operated destinations exist around the world and vary wildly in their construction, none are immune to the ideologies and discourses that govern the tourism industry. The tourists that visit these destinations, too, are influenced by the narratives and texts that mediate their experiences as consumers. In this essay I use the influence of institutional ethnography to discuss personal experiences travelling in Australia's Northern Territory, placing this discussion within the broader context of indigenous tourism. Beginning with a brief summary of the anthropological theories of tourism, I move on to describe actual experiences in Kakadu National Park, Alice Springs, and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. I demonstrate how texts and institutionalized discourse organize the tourist experience through the application of Edward Said's concept of "Othering" developed in his work, Orientalism (1979).

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