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Panel 29: Tourism development and cultural landscapes in Oceania: Critical interdisciplinary responses


Joseph Martin Cheer

Session presentation

If, as according to Robin (2015), ‘islands are idealised ecological worlds, the Edens of a fallen planet’, the rationale underpinning tourism expansion in Oceania should acknowledge MacLeod’s (2013) notion of ‘cultural realignment’ that calls for optimal and resilient encounters. Cultural realignment suggests that the ‘marketing of images and branding of a group of people, dwelling place or cultural site; the promotion or reorganisation of tangible and intangible heritage’ and ‘cultural representation, cultural interpretation and cultural commodification’ must consider the extent islands and islanders are privileged (Ibid). Buckley’s (2008) characterization of cultural landscapes as “a place where the setting would not look the same without the culture, and the latter would not look the same without the landscape” directly addresses the conference theme, ‘Experiencing Pacific Environments’. In interrogating the links between tourism and cultural landscapes in Oceania, critical interdisciplinary responses to Baldacchino’s assertion that “Islands – especially small ones – are now, unwittingly, the objects of what may be the most lavish, global and consistent branding exercise in human history” (2012) are sought.

Paper submissions are closed

Accepted papers

TOURISM AND ISLANDSCAPES Cultural realignment, social-ecological resilience and change

Joseph Martin Cheer (Monash University)

In articulating landscapes in island contexts, the term islandscapes is employed to demarcate between particularities that are particular to islands (Pungetti, 2017). For Pungetti (2017, np), island landscapes embrace “narratives on biocultural diversity and traditional ecological knowledge” and such sentiments pay heed to the social and ecological underpinnings that shape the fundamental notion of islandscapes. Islandscapes encompass both the landscape (physical and cultural landscapes) and seascape (coastline and other bodies of water that encompass islands) and this intersection makes up the essential character of islands. Pungetti (ibid) defines islandscapes as compromising the “interaction of abiotic, biotic and human processes developing on an island over time, and relating to the distinct island landscape and seascape characters and values…”. The notion of islandscapes is extended here to include ‘cultural islandscapes’ to take in MacLeod’s cultural alignment thesis that is central to this Special Issue.

This paper acts as a bridge between the cases Denmark, Spain, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, Scotland and Pitcairn that moves toward the development of a typology that describes how island peoples build adaptive capacities in localized cultural islandscapes. In particular, the links between cultural alignment and social-ecological resilience is emphasized. Accordingly, a thematic analysis that makes commentary of the ways in which island communities in vastly contrasting contexts have gone about developing adaptive capacities to the changes induced as a result of heightened and prolonged touristic activity is submitted. The principal and overarching question posed in this paper asks: To what extent are islandscapes resilient to rapidly changing utilities, significances and ways of life wrought by tourism expansion?

What models of cultural tourism development offer best prospects for optimisation of host-guest exchanges?

Gabriel Jennifer (James Cook University)

Michael Wood (James Cook University)

Drawing upon MacLeod’s (2013) notion of ‘cultural realignment’, which relates directly to the power of the tourism industry to effect the transformation of the lived environment, this paper posits that the ideal visitation involves the transformation of the ‘visitor experience’ to conform to the cultural landscape, which is fully under control of the hosts. Extending Robbin’s (2014) biological notion of resilient island environments as sites of cosmopolitan engagement, to the “sacred geographies of island Melanesia” (Bainton, Ballard & Gillespie 2012), we argue that multicultural dimensions of island livelihoods in Papua New Guinea, such as men’s houses, walking tracks, and spirit tracks, can link distant clan members and trading partners. Such links constitute a form of hospitable cosmopolitanism. The ideal tourist engagement with such comopolitans, needs to minimise the huge cultural manipulation that tourism often encourages. This cosmopolitan tourism involves a somewhat extreme intellectual, social and physical engagement with the “social production of lived space” (Lefebvre 1997). Staying in rural homes for instance, may provide more of an optimal and resilient encounter with cultural landscapes than other models of host-guest exchanges.


Api Movono (Griffith University)

Heidi Dahles (Griffith University)

Understanding the complex and adaptive nature of Pacific Island communities is a growing yet relatively unexplored area in the context of tourism. Based on ethnographic focused qualitative research, this study will examine the how over 40 years of tourism development has influenced complex changes within Vatuolalai village along the Coral Coast of Fiji. The construction of the Naviti Resort within communally owned land has created shifts in totemic associations, livelihood approaches, traditional knowledge and values of villagers, prompting adjustments in how they interact with and relate to their natural environment. The study will establish that tourism development has aroused ecological shifts that have over time, spurred further changes within the embedded socio-cultural constructs of the community. This paper will demonstrate, that tourism development introduced at one part of the system has far reaching consequences stimulating complex, non-linear responses from the interconnected elements encapsulated within an indigenous Fijian social and ecological system. Ultimately, the paper will show that tourism development has led to the emergence of new behaviours, practices, and values that re-define the cultural landscape and social and ecological relationships within the system.

“Adventures in Culture”: Cultural tourism experiences in a Yolŋu Homeland in North East Arnhem Land, Australia

Ruth Krolzig (Westfälische-Wilhelms-Universität Münster)

With the slogan “Adventures in culture” Yolŋu people welcome non-Aboriginal tourists from urban centres to their Homeland in North East Arnhem Land, within the framework of their own tourism business. They promote the sharing of their culture with tourists, promising “a new view on the world”, while surrounded by a magnificent landscape. Furthermore, they aim to create a new economy through tourism (Lirrwi Tourism 2014). In practice, Yolŋu refer to their kinship system in order to explain to tourists how they perceive the world differently. They conceptualize the universe in the complementary opposition of Yirritja and Dhuwa, the main moieties, which are also the two main clans at the basis of their kinship system. Even components like trees, shells, or fire are either Yirritja or Dhuwa. On tour, the visitors are adopted into the kinship system, depending on items they have picked from the environment. Furthermore, they experience the landscape through activities like fishing, bush medicine or weaving. Based on empirical data from recent fieldwork, this paper explores which modes Yolŋu use to introduce foreign visitors into their cultural landscapes, and how they promote these experiences.