Tracing Tourism Translations: Opening the black box of development assistance in community-based tourism in Viet Nam
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Tourism is a lens that provides unique insights into the social, cultural, political and economic processes operating in specific environments. In this study, the lens is directed at community-based tourism initiatives in northern Viet Nam that have been ‘facilitated’ by international development agencies. The potential of tourism as a tool for development is gaining increased recognition and popularity around the globe, despite widespread criticism in the academic literature based on the poor record of success. In Viet Nam, community-based tourism initiatives are increasingly being established with assistance from international development agencies, as a means of diversifying agricultural livelihoods in the hope of alleviating poverty. Based on six weeks of ethnographic fieldwork in northern Viet Nam, this research joins only a handful of tourism studies that have used actor-network theory (ANT) as a methodological approach for studying tourism. This thesis therefore provides an important contribution to the emerging dialogue on the potential of ANT to inform new understandings about tourism, as well as opening the black box of development-assisted community-based tourism in Viet Nam.
This research uses Callon’s (1986b) phases of translation to identify the actors in community-based tourism in Viet Nam, exploring the roles, relationships and strategies (per)formed by these actors as they attempt to enact CBT actor-networks. A discourse analysis shows how dominant discourses around knowledge and power homogenize groups such as host communities and tour operators, in ways that legitimise the interventions and actions of other actors, such as development agencies and government institutions. Exploring the dominant discourses around CBT opens a window into spaces within the actor-network of CBT where the workings of the actor-network are prescribed, taken for granted, and thus appear stable. However there are also spaces where the actor-networks are constantly negotiated, where meaning is contested and relationships between actors are fluid and dynamic. Out of these negotiated spaces agency emerges, and actor-networks are reconfigured as power relations shift and actors are transformed. This thesis explores some of these prescribed and negotiated spaces, showing the impact of specific power relations on material CBT outcomes and providing new understandings to inform development policy and practice.