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Institute of Cultural Anthropology

Issue 2 - July 2019

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When we started writing this edition of the ICA we chose the theme ‘Encounter’, while we did not know at all what this concept actually meant. ‘Encounter’ is a concept that often occurs in anthropology, because we are in fact researching the encounter within a group of people. However, different groups of people who meet can also result into a very fascinating anthropological process.


Within the most individual and virtual society ever existed, meeting someone in real life isn’t as self-evident as before. However, a simple encounter can say more than many words. Take for example, shaking hands when you meet someone. Some are very enthusiastic and will shake so to speak both hands off your body. Others do not give a handshake but rather look away, while restraining their hand , keeping it close to their own body and hardly try to touch yours. In the first physical encounter your overall view of that person you meet is actually the reflection of how you perceive yourself and others. This is one of the simplest encounters that can take place. However, so much significance can already be given to such a meeting. In the act of meeting someone, every human aspect comes together in terms of not only how we feel about others but also about ourselves. Furthermore, also the status we assign ourselves and thereby the place we put ourselves into a social group.

Encounter helps create an identity, and this repeats itself again by every other encounter. Therefore, the person who does not meet has no one to compare him or herself with. Through the group of people you have around you, you do grow as a person. These people around make who you are and I think that’s the power of meeting people. Think of it as a game, the game of one person who meets another and both have to make something out of it. Nothing more, and nothing less. Get to know yourself; think and reflect about the people around you and what this says about you as a person.

The definition of the term ‘Encounter’ that we use in this edition is generally about ‘to come upon or meet with someone or something.’ It is such a broad definition and therefore also  a broad theme, which makes it really interesting. Every person has an own association with this concept. This is why we have made a diverse selection of as many articles as possible so that, there will hopefully be at least one suitable for you. We gladly take you along all kinds of different encounters between people. Ranging from the best known political leaders to the most isolated groups living on a very distant island, from aggression in healthcare to couchsurfing, and from an unforgetable journey to the erotic encounter. These articles are available for you, in both the old school offline version as well as the more extensive online version.

As Social Scientists, it’s more than understandable that we know and understand how interesting people are much more than others. We would like to encourage you to meet others, but also consider and bear in mind the group of people you have already met. Are certain people very typical of a certain trait, or a certain phase in your life? And is there a group of people you would prefer to meet now than ever before? Take your time, reflect and get inspired by the stories about people meeting which gives perhaps a different interpretation than yours. Maybe you will learn something more about yourself.


Veronie Rouschop



Trophy Hunting.jpg
Namibian Trophy

Stasja Koot

Unexpected Friendships

Tessa van Hooijdonk

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2019 is not about Trump and Kim

Remco Breuker

In the Picture

Veronie Rouschop

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The Ju'Hoansi and the Others

Eva Katsimpri

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Anger and Hope
Climate March Amsterdam

Lotus Bueno de Mesquita and Willemijn Punt

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Agression in care: Undesired Encounters

Sinan Cankaya

An Ethnographer's Ludic Diary

Ralph Bolton

Anchor 1

Economic benefits and the role of science in development and conservation

Stasja Koot

In this essay I address two important issues relating to human encounters in trophy hunting in Namibia. First, I look into the often championed, but at times also criticised, economic benefits that trophy hunting instigates for so-called ‘community-based natural resource management’ (CBNRM) programmes. I show that, behind these ‘benefits’, a variety of human encounters take place. Second, and building on the first point, I address the role of scientists in the creation of the successful CBNRM discourse. I briefly refer to the indigenous Khwe San (Bushmen) of the Bwabwata National Park and the indigenous Ju/’hoansi San of the in Northern Namibia to illustrate that a focus only on economic benefits tends to mask important human encounters, and that science, especially when conducted by professionals who have an interest in the outcomes, plays a crucial role in this. Parts of this essay are based on a paper that I have recently published (Koot 2019).

Trophy Hunting in South-Africa


Recent years have shown an increase in the, often heated, debate on trophy hunting, with some important developments taking place in southern Africa. To name just a few that have accelerated the debate: In 2012, pictures of King Juan Carlos of Spain emerged in which he posed in front of his trophies, an elephant and two African buffaloes. As a result of the public outcry that followed, the King was dismissed as the honorary president of WWF Spain, which is ironic when realising that various WWF offices in southern Africa support trophy hunting in the name of conservation and development. Other important developments have been a ban on trophy hunting in Botswana in 2013, a very controversial hunt of a black rhino in Namibia for US $350,000 in 2015 and the infamous illegal hunt of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe in 2015. Royal connections of this hobby for the wealthy have a long history and continue today. The Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, for example, currently speaks out against the trophy hunting ban in Botswana.


Proponents of trophy hunting argue that it is good for conservation and for the development of marginalised people. In Namibia, a flaship country for CBNRM, trophy hunting plays a crucial role in this programme; in CBNRM, local groups are targeted to contribute to conservation and to live together with the wildlife. In return, they receive economic and material benefits, such as jobs in tourism and conservation and the meat from the hunts. Moreover, to keep CBNRM financially healthy, a requirement is a continuous stream of income, and trophy hunting provides for such large revenues because the amounts that hunters pay can be enormous; in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy in 






Northeast Namibia, the price for a 14-day hunt of one elephant costs US$ 80,000,- (Paterniti 2017). So in Namibia, as in many other countries, conservationists, hunting operators and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) all argue that the hunting industry is very important, not only for the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but especially for the development of marginalised rural populations. However, according to Economists at Large (2013), only 0,27% of the Namibian GDP is constituted by trophy hunting, and most of the revenues go to hunting operators, airlines, governments and tourism facilities. So how serious should we take the argument that ‘economic benefits’ are being created in Namibia for poor rural populations? This argument is problematic for various reasons; it masks differences within communities that are presented as if they are static, homogeneous entities and it masks encounters based on power relations between segments of these communities and outsiders (such as NGOs, hunting operators, donors and government officials). I do not deny that economic benefits at times exist, but by focusing only on these as the success of trophy hunting, other dynamics and encounters are covered up, especially those in the social and human domain. Moreover, such a neoliberal discourse accounts for the idea that the local people do not yet understand how to do ‘proper’ conservation (MacDonald 2005), and therefore need to be taught how things work, strongly resembling colonial structures and power relations, based on paternalistic ideas about moral edification.

The Indigneous San

An interesting group in this regard is the indigenous San (or Bushmen). As 'former’ hunter-gatherers some San groups are today involved in CBNRM initiatives in which trophy hunting plays a crucial role. Take, for example, the Khwe San who live in Bwabwata National Park. When some Khwe tried to establish relationships with impatient, wealthy, white hunting operators, this was considered ‘bribery’ by a local NGO working on CBNRM and the MET, because officially contact with hunters is not allowed when the selection process for a tender is not yet finished. However, on the ground such negotiations often take place already informally. In another example, the Ju/’hoansi San of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy showed how the group that worked with one particular hunting operator felt stressed, suppressed and humiliated by the operator, all for a very low salary. When I asked them why they would not simply leave the job, the answer was that there are only few job opportunities in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy. Indeed, partly due to the CBNRM programme their possibilities to create other types of livelihoods (e.g. through agriculture), are very limited, and the distribution of meat has always been a problem because of the wide dispersal of the settlements in Nyae Nyae. According to the Ju/’hoansi labourers, WWF played a crucial role in choosing this particular hunting operator because he would pay the highest bid for the tender (and thus create the largest income for the CBNRM programme). This does not necessarily mean that jobs always have a bad meaning for people, since in another example with a subcontractor in Nyae Nyae people enjoy their jobs and even receive some extra benefits. Then again, the question remains if hunting operators are indeed the right people to be involved in development; a hunter in Bwabwata recently explained that the ‘lazy’ Khwe employees are mostly a hindrance to his business and he has no interest in community development. In fact, encounters between the San and those working in tourism and trophy hunting are often not very favourable for the development of local people and has at times even led to a further marginalisation of the San (Blaikie 2006).

“it masks differences within communities that are presented as if they are static, homogeneous entities”

Altogether, jobs can be received for good or bad, but to look at jobs and simply call them ‘benefits’ is not enough; it masks structural issues beyond and within labour relations and potential exploitation. It is important to take such encounters into account when analysing trophy hunting. Therefore, I argue for an expansion of the trophy hunting debate beyond economic ‘benefits’ (Koot 2019), for example by using environmental psychologist James Gibson’s (1979) theoretical framework of ‘social affordances’, in which the interactions between organisms create meaning (instead of pre-decided ‘benefits’). By doing so, local perceptions, meanings, multiple experiences and power relations are addressed, and the larger human domain is taken into account (of which the ‘economy’ is only a part). Social affordances are creating the opportunity to analyse the encounters between human and non-human organisms. Moreover, reducing ‘development’ only to ‘economic benefits’ creates a simplistic image of a much more complex reality. But this is not something that is only done in trophy hunting and it is of much larger importance in environmental issues globally; trophy hunting is a good example of what Robert Fletcher (2010) calls ‘neoliberal environmentality’, which entails a situation in which the environment is shaped based on economic incentives with the aim of economic growth (based on market mechanisms) only.


The role of science

What is worrying, is that a large stream of scientific papers that address CBNRM and trophy hunting in Namibia as a golden bullet, are written by practitioners from a variety of organisations whose work is to promote exactly this model (see, for example, Angula et al 2018; Naidoo et al 2016)! The papers originate from organisations such as WWF Namibia, WWF US, and the Nambian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations (NACSO). Interestingly, they do not provide any information about the researchers’ position in relation to their respondents and, not surprisingly, the findings were overall favouring trophy hunting and CBNRM more generally, showing mostly how ‘successful’ the programme is (cf. Büscher 2014). The potential conflict of interest is, of course, important to be addressed in such cases and it is therefore necessary that researchers, including those originating in more ‘positivist’ traditions, explain their researcher position and reflect upon this when relevant. Moreover, the ‘success’ is all too easily taken over by the conservation movement and the private sector or parties representing their interest, such as the Namibian Chamber of the Environment (see, e.g. Brown 2017) and, especially, the Namibian Professional Hunting Association (NAPHA). 

The latter represents the interests of the trophy hunting industry, and has now fully embraced such scientific papers. For example, in their Position Paper NAPHA bluntly states:

“I shall leave it to an internationally respected conservation organisation, the WWF, to point out the benefits that trophy hunting brings to Communal Conservancies in Namibia through a study undertaken by them between 1998 and 2013. The title of this study is “Complimentary [sic] benefits of tourism and hunting to communal conservancies in Namibia”. It must be stressed that this study piece, unlike many of the pseudo – studies available on the internet, has been peer reviewed and independently verified.” (NAPHA 2016)

The paper that is being referred to by NAPHA has been written by WWF practitioners (Naidoo et. al. 2016) and addresses only economic benefits. It remains to be seen what research is meant with “the pseudo – studies available on the internet”, but the way in which NAPHA positions itself and uses ‘science’ to promote their own activities shows only a small part of the global trophy hunting lobby. Moreover, it shows that national and international power relations these days matter more than ever, and this includes scientific research that has the potential to feed neoliberal environmentality. I hope that the Duke of Cambridge is aware of the important realities on the ground that local communities experience in their daily encounters in trophy hunting, and that he keeps this in mind when he negotiates to reinstate trophy hunting in Botswana. My gut feeling though, tells me he is just another puppet in a much bigger game.

Trophy Hunting.jpg


Assistent Professor at the Department of Sociology of Development and Change at Wageningen University

Anchor 2



Tessa van Hooijdonk

It is the end of December 2016 on a rainy Monday morning when I meet her for the first time. She is a small woman, almost fragile. Her name is Anneke, she is only 53 years old but she looks much older. We meet each other at the Acute Day Treatment: a program for people who lost the structure in their life or, like me, have to pick up their lives again after a longtime stay in the psychiatric hospital. For six weeks, 3 days a week, Anneke and me are together at the treatment center. We do sports together, drink liters of coffee during breaks and cry from laughing at creative therapy where someone is building stairs for a Chihuahua that can’t climb into bed.

After the six weeks, we keep in touch. We meet for coffee, learn about each other’s’ life and support each other when hurdles have to be taken in life. In the late summer of 2017, right before dinner, I thought to message Anneke how she has been. Half an hour after sending the text message, I get an anonymous call, it turns out to be the daughter of Anneke, whom until then I have never met before. I only know her from stories her mother told me. She saw my message but Anneke erased all her contacts from her phone so she doesn’t know who I am. Something has happened to her mother and she is calling everyone who tries to make contact with her. Anneke has had a stroke and is in the hospital; she can’t talk and is one-sided paralyzed. I burst into tears and lose my appetite immediately. This can not be happening, it isn’t fair. Her daughter explains to me what has happened exactly and we cry for a while together on the phone. By saying goodbye the daughter promises to keep me posted when the situation of her mother changes.   

Slowly, Anneke´s condition gets better.  She is able to use her body and is learning to speak again. She is released from the hospital to go to a caring home. This is where I visit her multiple times. At first with her daughter and later on my own. We cry together about the situation, she doesn’t understand why she survived the stroke with her fragile body that constantly is in pain. Somewhere, deep down, she would have wanted her body to give up. However, we also laugh a lot, especially by the memories of the day treatment. All of this happens, as per tradition, while we enjoy a cup of coffee. At this point, we know each other for over a year and a special friendship has been developed between us.

In the beginning of April 2018, I get a message from Anneke herself, she is allowed to go home soon, whether I want to come over for coffee when she is home. Of course I want to. Unfortunately, this will never happen. On the 22 of April 2018, I get a phone call from her daughter. Anneke is dead. She did it herself. I go silent, I am shocked. At this point, I hadn’t expected a call from her daughter anymore. We say goodbye and I wish her and her family all the best. The tears will come later. And even as I’m writing this, I can feel the tears running down my cheeks again.

I met Anneke in a place where I didn’t expect friendships to develop. She is the proof that it can happen: friendships do develop in the most unexpected of places. Keep opening up yourself to meet new people, even in the moments you don’t see it happening.

Tessa van Hooijdonk

4th year's



Anchor 3

Remco Breuker

Although there have already been multiple encounters between the president of the United States (Donald Trump) and the leader of North-Korea (Kim Jong-un), that have had a great influence on the overall world order, there are other meetings on the political agenda as well. 


Although the summit meeting between Kim and Trump was one of the 
most spectacular happenings of 2018, we must focus more on the discussions between Kim and Moon. In my opinion the encounters about the engagement between North- and South-Korea will be much more thrilling than all the Trump commotion we have seen the last years. But first, I will give you a short recap of the recent meetings of the world top.

Deal or no deal?

In June 2018, the summit meeting between Kim and Trump took place. North-Korea wanted to sit down with the American president and be treated as an equal for years now. Trump has granted this wish by placing the North Korean president on an equal footing during the June summit. It’s clear that the meeting has reduced tension, but it hasn’t solved any problems. No war has broken out, but no deal has been concluded either, nor have promises been redeemed. It turned out we should not expect anything this way. It should be handled in a more realistic way. Thus, my expectations for upcoming meetings between Kim and Trump are not very high. 

This expectation turned out to be true, because Kim overplayed his hand during the world top summit of February 2019. Kim Jong-un and Trump came together in Hanoi to negotiate about the denuclearization of, and the sanctions against, North-Korea. There was no agreement made, nor were there any arrangements made for another meeting.
‘Sometimes it’s better to walk away,’ clarified Trump during the press conference. According to the American president, Kim Jong-un asked for a complete defeasance of the sanctions against, North-Korea. There was no agreement made, nor were there any arrangements made for another meeting. ‘Sometimes it’s better to walk away,’ clarified Trump during the press conference. According to the American president, Kim Jong-un asked for a complete
defeasance of the sanctions against his country. In return, Kim Jong-un offered to dismantle one facility. This was not enough for Trump to continue in the negotiations.



Kim Jong-un’s proposal came as a surprise to me. North Korea is offering its thirty-year-old nuclear power plant for the umpteenth time, which is likely to be demolished anyway. After so many times, that offer has become worthless. The North Korean leader would have been more likely to make a deal if he had requested a reduction of sanctions rather than total elimination. Trump could have responded much more easily to that. 

The self-confidence of the North Koreans has troubled them in recent years. The attitude to get the most out of it may have been caused by everything that is going on in Washington, such as the testimony of Michael Cohen. North-Korea obviously smelled blood, but they really overplayed their hand this time.

No deal

Realistically though, is it really that bad that there is no deal? Personally, I believe the outcome could have been worse. The course of this summit shows that this is not the way to come to solutions; there are too many structural limitations. It’s good that, without everything collapsing, it has been made clear that negotiation between these two has its limits.




Kim and Moon

It is not only this encounter between two exceptional regimes that is interesting. Let’s take a at the rapprochement between North and South Korea. Trump is a real showman, but the man quietly in the background that made everything possible is the South-Korean president Moon Jae-in. Moon turns out to be a very skilled diplomat. If any plans or arrangements are made, they are made with Moon and Kim. Trump will hear about it afterwards. 

Steps towards unification of North and South Korea followed each other rapidly this year. For example, a united rail network seems to be emerging over which business people and workers will commute. It is a very powerful symbolic gesture that a train runs between North and South just like in the old days. Trains bring economic development everywhere they stop and this is exactly what it is all about. That train will not be for the ordinary North or South Korean, it is purely economic.


Not fast enough


After a series of special encounters between the various countries, the big question is of course how these encounters will further develop. Whether the reduction of sanctions Kim Jong-un should have proposed are off the table, I dare not to say. It remains to be seen how long Trump will continue to spend time on this, especially now that he has other things on his mind in Washington. However, Kim Jong-un will in the long term be forced to be concerned about the sanctions that are not reduced, and that makes life difficult for this regime.

Besides, reduction in sanctions is not only important for Kim Jong-un’s country, but for South Korea as well. The big South Korean corporations are excited to cross the border to vastly invest in North Korea. However, this is not possible because of the sanctions. President Moon will try to mingle himself in the situation, just as he has done before. Whether he will get the Americans and North Koreans in that, too, remains uncertain. 




Things seem to go too slow for Kim and Moon. With the resignation of Moon as president coming up in 2.5 years, there is a danger for Moon that his successor will look more skeptical at the North. So far nothing has been done between North and South that cannot be reversed. However, far-reaching steps will be difficult to take without the support of the international community and citizens themselves. Yet, both countries seem to want to sacrifice a lot for unification. For example, in terms of human rights, there remains deafening silence. A worrying situation.



““It is a very powerful symbolic gesture that a train runs between North and South just like in

the old days.””


Remco breuker

Historian of Korea and Northeast Asia at Leiden University and works on medieval Korean and Northeast Asian history and on contemporary North Korean affairs.

Anchor 4

Veronie rouschop

3rd year's

Morocco, a country full of encounters. Where poor and rich meet each other, as well as modern and classic, bustle and tranquility, dirty and clean, warm days and cold nights, colorful yet not. An interesting mishmash of all aspects of daily life. The most striking thing about this country is the encounter between tourism and daily life. Social media is a special mediator in this regard. The use of social media in travelers’ decision-making has a significant impact on the tourism system (Leung 2012)

Research findings show that the importance of social media for the competitiveness of tourism is growing rapidly. However, this leads to situations like this in daily life. The girls on the left, who photograph all corners of the fountain with themselves as the focal point of the photo. On the right, the two ladies quietly enter the mosque. Not even a glance is given to the photographing girls. A fraction of a second, but in many large cities of Morocco the self-experienced truth.

Limits in both tourism and social media are becoming increasingly difficult to identify. However, with this photo we want to show that not everything has to be shared on social media when on vacation. Because sometimes, a memory is more worth than a thousand pictures.



How the local and the tourist gaze shape the touristic encounter 

Anchor 5

Eva Katsimpri


Based on the definition by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), tourism involves activities of persons travelling to and staying in places outside of their usual environment (UNWTO, 2001). More specifically, tourism results from the binary division of the ordinary and the extraordinary (Urry & Larsen, 2011). On their quest to get out of their routine, to find the extraordinary, travelers seek experiences “off the beaten track”. The African continent offers a wide range of such activities for the adventurous traveler. Africa for many is considered as a dangerous place, a “wilderness” with wild animals and strange people (van Beek & Schmidt, 2012). The curiosity for these “strange people” is leading tourists to travel from faraway places to meet these people who are often described as untouched by western civilization.

The tourism that involves interaction between hosts and guests in this context can be seen as cultural tourism, which can be defined as a “form of tourism which provides new knowledge, experiences and encounters; tourism which meets the people’s need for diversity and aims at raising the cultural level of the individual”. Cultural exchange is a key aspect of this kind of tourism, as the tourists seek to experience the former and contemporary everyday life and society of the other (UNWTO, 2016). Cultural tourism thus potentially involves contact with historically unique groups and settings (Donlon, Donlon, & Agrusa, 2010).

This article focusses on cultural tourism of the Ju/’hoansi, who inhabit the Nyae Nyae conservancy, in Namibia. They are active stakeholders through a Community Based Natural Resource Management program (CBNRM), (Koot & van Beek, 2017). Referred commonly as ‘Bushmen’ or ‘San’, the Ju/’hoansi have often been presented as the typical hunter-gatherers who were untouched by the outside world. The Nyae Nyae area is not overflowing with tourists but there are many who reach this remote place in north-east Namibia in order to witness the ancient and unique culture of the Ju/’hoansi.

Cultures are not static though, like other indigenous communities, the Ju/’hoansi have been influenced

by the political and economic system. The conservancy supports them with agriculture and livestock

projects, they have access to income through tourism and other activities, so they do not depend

solely on the hunting and gathering lifestyle. In literature this is referred to as a double identity.

While marketed as pristine, hunter-gathers, living an authentic life, the Bushmen are at the same

time victims of modern-day capitalism (Hitchcock, Ikeya, Biesele, & Lee, 2006). In other words,

while the Ju/hoansi have been getting Western influences which have been incorporated into their

lifestyle through the years, they are still promoted as the “noble savages”, the last authentic people

(Gordon & Douglas, 2000). For this reason, it is important to understand how this double identity influences the touristic experience.



The data presented in this article are part of a broader qualitative research in the Nyae Nyae conservancy, where I spent 3 months doing ethnographic fieldwork. I conducted interviews, both formal and informal. By interviewing visitors, I was able to acquire insights on their experiences about the tourism activities, and by interviewing local Ju/’hoansi and other related stakeholders (e.g. the Nyae Nyae conservancy), I was able to acquire a local perspective on cultural tourism encounters. On the core of cultural tourism in Nyae Nyae are the tourism visits on the local villages where I joined the tourists in order to observe the interactions and the dynamics between the hosts and the guests. Moreover, I visited the villages individually to observe the locals in a setting outside of the tourism context. However, this claim can be contested since through the eyes of many locals I was also a tourist, my translator was a tour guide as well.


The activities

Cultural tourism activities are held by the TUCSIN Tsumkwe Lodge, the main tourism lodge in the area which has an arrangement with three villages. When tourists book a cultural activity, they are taken to a so-called traditional village which is a representation of the way the villages were constructed in the past. There, the visitors, depending on how many hours they wish to spend in the village, are taken on a “bushwalk”, where the local Ju/’hoansi show the properties of regional plants, invite the tourists to try some of the “bush food” that they gather on the spot and  demonstrate how to set traps and make fire with wooden sticks. Then, back at the village, visitors can participate in traditional craft making, observe traditional dances and games. Hunting and tracking are also options depending on the amount of time and money the visitors are willing to spend in the village. The “Little Hunters Museum” is another tourism venture operating in Nyae Nyae. Here, the same activities are provided, but the total amount of the revenues is allocated to the local community of the //Xa/oba village, whereas in the case of the activities organized by the lodge, the participating Ju/’hoansi acquire between 40 to 50 percent of the total revenue.

The gaze

Cultural tourism under certain circumstances can be used as a positive force for local communities (Craik, 2000).  Involvement can empower by reinforcing the sense of pride and community cohesion (Cole, 2006). However, when hosts are behaving in a way to cater to the guests’ needs it can lead to different outcomes. The repetitiveness of the interaction leads the hosts to look at the tourists as dehumanized objects, as stereotyped national character images that are tolerated for the financial benefit, and the tourists to look upon their hosts with curiosity and as to objects as well (Smith, 1989). From the perspective of the tourists, what they usually look for is predetermined (Koot, 2013). The tourism industry creates images of destinations with specific characteristics and tourists expect to understand those places through the imaginary construction of reality contained within this context (Goss, 1993). In other words, the way tourists ‘gaze’ on a place is socially constructed and highly depends on social discourses and practices (Urry & Larsen, 2011). In response to these expectations, the locals reflect the gaze back and behave accordingly in order to benefit financially (Urry, 1996). Thus, it can be drawn from the above that the gaze is mutual; as Urry and Larsen (2011) stress out, guests indeed have a certain power when they gaze upon the hosts and objectify them, but hosts also exercise power and objectify their guests through the ‘local gaze’.



                                                                 In the case of the Bushmen of Namibia, tourists have certain expectations, when visiting

                                                                 the Bushmen. The reproduced images and narratives illustrate the Ju/’hoansi as the

                                                                 fascinating Bushmen, the pure and typical hunter-gatherers (Koot, 2013). Tourists visit their

                                                                 traditional villages to witness the primitive, to experience the authentic way of living,

                                                                 untouched by the western civilization, unaware of their “modern” identity. Indeed, many

                                                                 visitors, when asked why they decided to visit the Ju/’hoansi, responded that they want to

                                                                 experience “the original bush experience”, “the real thing as it is shown on TV 


Locals believe that tourists want to see the unique “bush culture”, the tradition and not how they are currently living. “They want to see us in skins, to see how we survived all these years with our lifestyle,” responds an elder Ju/’hoan. “When tourists come, they want to see the way we lived in the past. So, we take them to the traditional village. This one (the modern village) is dirty, noisy. They don’t travel from so far to see this” says a Ju/’hoan woman. “We don’t take the tourists to the modern village because it is not something they would be interested to see, if they ask then we will take them,” says a local guide. From the above, it is clear that both sides have predetermined views on the experience. On the one hand, the tourists expect to see the ‘primitive’, the authentic, the untouched ‘others’. On the other hand, the locals have specific views on what the tourists expect and behave accordingly.


The encounter

Tourists can thus experience the ‘ancient’ culture of the Ju/’hoansi by visiting ‘traditional’ villages, where activities are directed from a local tour guide who also explains the different activities. As the majority of the Ju/’hoansi who participate in the cultural activities do not speak English, the tour guide acts also as a translator. Consequently, the interaction between the hosts and the guests is limited. The Ju/’hoansi are relatively reserved and hesitate to engage more with the tourists in most cases; the interaction is narrowed to questions the visitors may ask, which the guides usually answer directly without addressing them to the locals. Therefore, the role of tour guide is key on how the local gaze is exercised; tour guides promote the pristine image of the Ju/’hoansi and sometimes purposely hide the way the locals are currently living. “The tourists want to see the Bushmen and that is what we offer them,” says a local tour guide. “It feels so natural, so primitive. This is the authentic bushman experience!” explains a Canadian tourist. “These people are so untouched from the West. They live so secluded and peaceful,” says a German visitor.

On the other hand, other visitors did not experience the cultural activities the same way. When realizing that this is a performance of the traditional culture and not an exact representation of their everyday life, the impressions were mixed. “This was not worth our money, it was just a show,” responded a German tourist. “It feels like a zoo or worse like a circus!” says a surprised young tourist. “We come to their village, we make them wear skins and tell them to perform for us,” he continues. But responses are mixed; “I felt disappointed at first to see that this is not the authentic thing, but it is was overall an interesting experience,” says an English visitor in the //Xa/oba village. “I think it is great that these people found a way to generate income by demonstrating their culture,” says another visitor at the same village. Finally, another visitor notices “It is very interesting to see how this community is changing through the years,”.

The responses were closely linked to the different perceptions on authenticity. When visitors associated authenticity with the premodern and “primitive”, they were expecting to meet the “real Bushmen” and they eventually were satisfied or unsatisfied depending on the level of “primitivity” they experienced. Other individuals were characterizing the experience which was closest to ‘reality’ as authentic. So, for many the performance was a representation of the old culture, but they were also interested to see how development has influenced their society in general.



In conclusion, cultural tourism is one of the main sources of income for the Ju/’hoansi

of Nyae Nyae, and many choose to participate in such activities. Tourists from all over

the world are curious to meet these ‘last pristine hunter-gathers’. When these two worlds

finally meet, they both exercise a mutual gaze at each other, making the encounter to fall

under specific predetermined expectations. In fact, when these expectations are not met,

the experience becomes disappointing from the side of the tourists. As the interaction

between the two parties is limited, intercultural communication is difficult, and escaping

from the gaze is almost unfeasible. In order for visitors to engage truly with the Ju/’hoansi

a 3-hour visit to a traditional village is inadequate; understating the culture, modern and

traditional is close to impossible. Thus, cultural tourism in theory may involve cultural

exchange and raise the cultural level of the individual as the definition of the UNWTO

(2016) claims, but in reality it is much more complicated.

“While marketed as pristine, hunter-gathers, living an authentic life, the Bushmen are at the same time victims of modern-day capitalism”

“The interaction between the hosts and the guests is limited”


Eva katsimpri

MSc student Leisure, Tourism and Environment, Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen, the Netherlands.


It is raining really hard and it is very windy. We’re cold, but armed with raincoats and umbrellas we stand strong. As we walk towards the Dam square, we hear fragments of a speech. Unfortunately, we couldn’t understand much of it, but everyone stood pointed towards the stage and tried to listen, which caused a feeling of unity. Although people stung each other with their umbrellas, still the mood was jovial. 

Pushing or Diving

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