Construction of Ethnic Identity in Malaysian Tourism Texts Dr Collin Jerome Assoc Prof Dr Su-Hie Ting Paper presented at SOLLs.INTEC 2013, 2-3 July 2013, Cyberview Resort & Spa, Cyberjaya. Introduction Identity construction has been studied in tourism research in the contexts of culture commodification, ethnic preservation and national identity building. Texts such as pamphlets, brochures and travel guides, not only present information about people, cities, places of interests and special events for commercial gains, but also operate as sites of cultural and identity constructions. Henderson (2003, p. 72) Purpose of study The study examined portrayals of ethnic identity in tourism texts produced by Tourism Malaysia and other local tour agencies. 1. Aspects of ethnic identity used as selling point to attract tourists. 2. Categorisation of tangible ethnic markers into internal and external types using Isajiw's (1990) framework. 3. Portrayals of various ethnic groups in tourism texts – stereotypes versus perceived reality of ethnic and national identities. Method of study 20 travel pamphlets, brochures and guidebooks numbering 750 pages were analysed. • • • • Coding for mention of ethnic groups, including those from other countries (e.g, Dutch, French). Counting number of items with mention of ethnic groups. Identifying descriptors associated with mention of ethnic groups. Conducting thematic analysis to map out cultural markers used to portray various ethnic groups. Data analysis Beads The states of Sabah and Sarawak have long been associated with products made of beads. In Sabah, the Rungus people are known for their distinct and elaborate beaded accessories …. Results 1. Ethnic identity markers used as a selling point • • • • • • Food Arts and Craft Costumes Heritage buildings Homestay Festivals Ethnic groups highlighted: Malay, Chinese, Indian, Dayak, Nyonya-Baba, Iban, Bidayuh, Rungus, Orang Asli, foreigners 1. Identity markers highlighted by groups Ethnic markers/ Groups Food Arts & craft CosFesti- Reli- Heritumes vals gion tage Buildings Home -stay People Chinese 20 0 0 1 1 14 0 1 Malay 14 5 1 0 0 2 12 1 Indian 14 2 1 0 1 2 0 0 Sarawak indigenous 1 0 0 1 0 0 5 1 Sabah indigenous 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 Orang Asli 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 Nyonya 7 1 1 0 0 5 0 3 Foreigners 7 0 0 0 1 30 0 0 Ethnic mix 1 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 1. Ethnic identity markers used as a selling point • Chinese – identity based on food & buildings (temples – religion). Not homestays – homes are for family and friends? • Malay – represented by food, homestay & culture. Tourists would probably find out more about Malaysia in Malay homestays. More likely nostalgic representation of Malaysian life. • Indian – symbolised by Indian food. Hindu temples highlighted but 1 mention of Indian. • Foreign influence on buildings and history. 1. Ethnic identity markers used as a selling point Tourism brochures promote mainly food and buildings, and constructs ethnic distinctiveness in Malaysia along these lines. Visual representations of identities (Pritchard & Morgan, 2010). Heritage buildings - glorious past creating the interesting present. Evident for all ethnic groups. Even foreign architectural influence is brought up to accentuate this construction but resistance to colonialism is mostly absent from tourism discourse (see Bandyopadhay et al., 2008 – bravery of freedom fighters vs colonial magnificence). 1. Ethnic identity markers used as a selling point Cited by Henderson, 2003, p. 74). Careful avoidance of what Bandyopadhay, Morais, and Chick (2008) found, i.e., “Hinduism preceded and prevailed over all other ethnicities/religions in representations of India’s heritage by tourism media” (p. 790). 1. Ethnic identity markers used as a selling point Fragmentation of ethnicities to create national identity in heritage tourism. Little evidence of the Malay dominance message observed by Henderson (2003) from his analysis of Tourism Malaysia (2002) texts and photographs – ethnic pluralism existing alongside Malay supremacy. Malaysia’s multiethnicity has value as a marketable commodity (Henderson, 2003). Results 2. Categorisation of tangible ethnic markers into internal and external More external (tangible) rather than internal (intangible) ethnic markers are used to represent ethnic groups. Food (e.g. Chinese, Malay, Indian) and culture (e.g. Malay). If food is the most retained aspect of external ethnic identity (Isajiw as cited in Kuo & Raysircarsodowsky, 1999, p. 83), food is the most salient external ethnic marker used to represent ethnic and national identities in Malaysian tourism brochures. Internal aspects of ethnic identity (Isajiw, 1990): 1. Cognitive – ethnic self-image, knowledge of ethnic group’s heritage and history) 2. Affective/Cathartic – sense of belonging to and sympathy and associative preference for same-ethnic group members 3. Moral (CORE) – sense of obligation to one’s ethnic group – help them get jobs, marry within group, support group causes, want children to speak ethnic language) (as cited in Kuo & Raysircar-sodowsky, 1999, p. 83) Cognitive – internal aspects of ethnic identity Possibility of highlighting affective and moral – other internal aspects of ethnic identity through interviews External aspects of ethnic identity (Isajiw, 1990) – observable social and cultural behaviours * Ethnic language retention (as mother tongue, frequent use, reading and writing the L) * Ethnic group friendships (no. of friends of same ethnicity vs out-group friends) * Participation in ethnic group functions (churches, school, vacations, dances, picnics, rallies, voluntary associations, clubs) * Ethnic media (TV/radio, reading materials) * Ethnic traditions (eating ethnic foods, practice of ethnic customs, possession of ethnic articles) (as cited in Kuo & Raysircar-sodowsky, 1999, p. 83) Results 3. Stereotypes versus realities of ethnic groups and national identity Various stereotypes (i.e. idea, image, characteristic traits, or normative collective behaviour) are used to portray and reinforce ethnic identity. E.g. Indians = roti canai Chinese = Hokkien mee, Teochew Temple Malay = kampung, keris, pencak silat Indian Muslim = Nasi Kandar, Mee Goreng Mamak Iban & Bidayuh = longhouse, manok pansuh Stereotypes of national identity e.g., Malaysian = hospitality, festivals, culture and traditions Tourism brochures do not portray the realities of ethnic groups and national identity. Ethnic identity construction: A myriad of factors: “Gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, class, religion, age, and place all intersect at the crossroads of identity” (Thompson, 2007, p. 15). National identity construction: “People’s stronger ethnic, religious, and regional affiliations” continue to have pervasive influence on notions of identity and sense of belonging in the modern Malaysian nation-state (Verma, 2002, p. 40). Stereotypes are used in the brochures to create: 1. a sense of ethnic authenticity and nostalgia to be consumed by tourists, including the colonial past. e.g, Rendang Tok...flavoursome Malay delicacy A salad made of raw fish or prawns, hivana, is especially popular among the Kadazandusun A tranquil Malay village that sits prettily amidst swaying palms and tropical vegetation. Be entralled by the granduer of royal Malay customs and traditions. Centuries of Portugese, Dutch, and British rule Fraser's Hill...akin to Scotish village...nostalgic charm Stereotypes are used in the brochures to create: 2. a ‘unified’ or ‘integrated’ sense of national identity through ethnic fragmentation. e.g, country's colourful ethnic mix of Chinese, Malay, Indian, Nyonya and Thai The East Malaysia region is made up of an ensemblage of ethnic groups. The ethnic groups differ greatly in terms of... Sabah... consists of over 30 different ethnic communities. Tourism brochures do not represent the realities (e.g, peoples’ lived experiences of ethnic groups and Malaysians mainly because they do not sell. It is the created homogeneous stereotypes which sell as the ‘authentic’ tourist experience. (Davis, 1997, p. 104) The dissonance between projected image (food, homestay, heritage buildings) and perceived realities of ethnic and national identities may provoke “nostalgia rather than critical thought by romanticizing the past and hiding from visitors current social inequities and their real historical source”, states Blundell (2002, p. 39) who analysed Canadian tourist brochures. Conclusion Biased impressions of others on Malaysia: …indah khabar dari rupa (what’s there in a name?). It may not be a 'beautiful' (idealized) country after all because peoples' everyday lived conditions and experiences are often concealed in travel brochures (e.g, poverty in Malaysia, recent political turmoil, street rallies, rising crime rates in major cities). … a ‘touristy’ nation which is appealing to tourists but lacks authenticity because things are recreated and ethnicity is commodified for their consumption (e.g, Mini Malaysia & Mini ASEAN in Melaka, Kampung Budaya in Sarawak).