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Partners in Paradise

Tourism Practices, Heritage Policies, and Anthropological Sites


Robert J. Shepherd

How and why do some places in the world become symbols of illusive paradise, and what does this mean for their residents? Moving between anthropology, tourism, and the increasingly influential cultural heritage movement, Partners in Paradise examines the origins of a Euro-American fascination with places imagined to exist outside of Modernity. Focusing on the emergence of Tibet and Bali as, in turn, anthropological field sites, tourist destinations, and cultural heritage sites, it argues that the work of academic researchers, tourists, and cultural preservationists inform and constitute each other, in the process constructing particular places as «paradise». Unpacking this process is a necessary first step in understanding how Tibetans and Balinese negotiate their place in a modern world in which the meaning of «paradise» is contested. Drawing on anthropology, history, and tourist studies, Partners in Paradise offers a unique lens on the politics of development, modernization, and cultural preservation.


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Conclusion: The Politics of Travel 121


Conclusion The Politics of Travel Unlike tropical islands, mountainous places such as Tibet were not desira- ble destinations in the European and American imagination until relatively recently. The Darwinian revolution and a radical transformation of the aesthet- ics of nature and especially mountains were required before this could happen. And, once desired, these places, much like tropical islands, were valued because they were idealized as separate from modernity. Writing in the wake of the British occupation of Lhasa in 1905, L. Austine Waddell asserted that the purpose of the invasion was not to overthrow the existing Tibetan political order, but to provide British protection to a “charming land and interesting people” (1906: 448). What is puzzling is how, despite his own descriptions of the abject material poverty he encountered, Waddell, much like other travelers to Tibet in the years before the post-1949 Chinese occupation, could reach such a conclusion. He writes that “the real mind of Tibet seems to me to be more authentically expressed in the words of the Cardinal of Lhasa than in the superstitions of the monks and the people” (ibid). This illustrates the paradoxi- cal way in which an idealized Tibet has come to substitute for Tibetans as actually existing beings in the minds of many Europeans and Americans. No matter what realities foreigners encounter, either in person or through films, books, and essays, ‘Tibet’ is forever a land outside of the everyday reality of their lives. The world we inhabit is one in which people...

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