Entangled dreams: A discussion of the intercultural appeal of Australian Indigenous tourism

In Australia Indigenous cultural tourism is presented as a treasure trove for economic, social, and cultural opportunities, praised as it is in policy documents, advertising campaigns, travel brochures, and, for instance, in the hospitable invitation of an Aboriginal tourism enterprise in north Australia to 'come share our culture'. The question I will especially address in this paper is: to whom does 'our' refer?

On the basis of ethnography on several Indigenous tourism enterprises in northern Australia I will discuss the nature of the intercultural domain in cultural tourism. I assess the pervasive belief in the benefits of tourism for Indigenous people as a rather straightforward road to economic and cultural empowerment – a belief which underlies much of the upbeat and pivotal rhetoric on 'sharing culture'. However, I do so without disregarding the interest for tourism consistently expressed by Aboriginal people I encountered in this environment; rather I try to explain the active role many Aboriginal tour guides and cultural performers often played in sustaining the appraising view of tourism. In order to gain an understanding of the capacity of tourism, either positive or negative, it is necessary to view Indigenous people as agentive in trying to delve its potential 'riches', at least on the level of everyday life.

Anke Tonnaer (Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands)

Date & time

Fri 29 Aug 2008, 12.30–2pm


Humanities Conference Room, First Floor, A.D. Hope Bldg #14 (opposite Chifley Library),


Anke Tonnaer


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