The question of who controls Indigenous tourism is of wide and growing relevance in post-colonial societies, especially in so-called transition economies, that are moving from state-led economies to mostly market-based economies. This paper explores such global–local dynamics for an Indigenous group in South Africa in relation to authenticity, development and power relations. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among the Indigenous South Kalahari Bushmen (≠Khomani) and their interactions with the tourism sector, especially up-market accommodation projects, it questions assumptions that economic and educational benefits will “trickle down” to the poor. It exposes two key contradictions in the capitalist tourist system. The first is that authenticity is opposed to becoming inauthentic; the Bushmen stay “authentic” for tourists who impose modernity as consumers, making the Bushmen merely an “Indigenous brand” that attracts tourists, creating revenue that trickles down into the area but hardly to those who are the brand. The second contradiction is that of poverty alleviation through a system that marginalises the Indigenous, and critically probes the concept of tourism “developing” (educating) Indigenous people. This assumed education is minimal: Bushmen and white managers are entangled in colonial paternalism (baasskap), with managers often lacking broader understanding of development, focusing mainly on economic growth.
- South Africa
- South Kalahari Bushmen