Senin, 23 April 2012

Human Safaris – Educational or Exploitative?

Oleh : Nancy Parode

Human Safaris in The News

pic :
In March 2012, Marco Werman, host of Public Radio International's "The World," interviewed Sophie Grig of Survival International. They discussed human safaris. Werman asked Grig about recent news stories concerning the Jarawa, indigenous inhabitants of India's Andaman Islands who have only had contact with outsiders for about a dozen years. Grig described the Jarawa as "a hunter-gatherer tribe," one that is threatened by "pressure from outsiders" and "exploitation," including "human safaris," tour groups that travel through the Jarawas' rain forest homeland – a protected reserve – in hopes of seeing the Jarawa. Grig compared the tours to "viewing animals in a zoo" and mentioned that tourists throw cookies and candy at the Jarawa to convince them to come out into the open. In some cases, tour operators have apparently bribed police officers to allow them to bring tourists to places where they can photograph or film the Jarawa. In one instance, a group of police officers herded a group of Jarawa into a particular area so that a tour group could see and photograph them.

Two months earlier, in January 2012, three tour operators offering tours to Bonda tribal villages in the Indian state of Orissa (Odisha) were charged with violating laws prohibiting use of "objectionable" material to promote tours. All three companies offered tours to Bonda villages. Although many tour operators have removed their tribal tours information from their websites, a recent search by this writer revealed that Tribal India Tours offers tours that allow vacationers to "visit approximately 6000 members of the fierce Bondas (naked people). They live in the remote hills and keep themselves isolated." Until late March 2012, Orissa Tourism promoted an Odisha (Orissa) Tribal Tour on its website that offered a "photo session" with "Bondos [sic]" and "Didayis." Sonata Travels offers "Tribal Tour Orissa," featuring a visit to a Muria Gond tribal village. The tour description includes information about tribal dress: "The dress of Maria [sic] women consists of a white skirt with the upper portion of the body being left bare; and the men wear loin cloths and turbans which are often adorned with long strings of beads wound several times around combs," which leads one to wonder why most guidebooks to New York City and Berlin fail to mention details of native dress.

While tour operators like these clearly demean native tribes by trotting out individuals for photo opportunities and using titillating words to entice vacationers to book an Orissa trip, there is a larger issue that should be considered, namely, whether "human safaris" and "poverty" or "slum" tourism offer any benefits at all.

What Is a "Human Safari"?

In its broadest sense, a "human safari" is an organized tour that takes visitors to a place where they can observe "locals" or "natives" in their indigenous settings. There can be a fine line between cultural tourism and human safaris. True cultural tourism offers an opportunity for interaction, perhaps alongside shopping opportunities, foodways demonstrations or craft lessons. Human safaris focus on the opportunity to see, photograph and video local people in an exploitative manner; for example, a tour that takes vacationers to a tribal village, encourages vacationers to bribe locals with food or money to perform a dance and permits the vacationers to film the entire experience would definitely fall into the "human safari" category.

On a smaller scale, one might classify certain church tours or individual visits to gospel churches in Harlem, New York, as human safaris, particularly if participants visit a Sunday worship service solely to listen to the choir for a short while, take photographs and leave rather than to participate in the entire church service.

Ethics of Human Safaris

There are few, if any, reasons to recommend a human safari to anyone. Human safari operators exploit people who may wish either to continue their traditional way of life or to avoid contact with other cultures, often for a profit. Human safari operators sometimes blatantly disregard local laws designed to protect indigenous peoples from exposure to disease, unwanted outside influences and exploitation. Local residents lose the opportunity to determine for themselves how much contact they wish to have with tourists and other visitors when human safari operators bring busloads of people onto their tribal lands.