Western Tourism and Dialogical Remembering Of The American War In Vietnam

Monday, July 14, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: 304
Oral Presentation
Brad WEST , University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
The history/tourism nexus has typically been theorised in relation to either parochialism or simplification. However, this binary neglects the diversity of tourist forms and the different social actors involved in their production. This paper examines international tourism at the Cu Chi Tunnels in South Vietnam by focussing on the narration of the war by Vietnamese tour guides and its interpretation by young American, Australian, British and European tourists. While the oversight of tourism in Vietnam by the state sees tourists at Cu Chi presented with some strong anti-American rhetoric, this is offset by a strong dialogical narrative of the war presented by local guides. It is argued that guides are important reputational entrepreneurs who in order to account for post-Fordist tourists privilege the local while also drawing together different national traditions. For Western tourists this typically results in a greater recognition of Vietnamese suffering and a questioning of the anti-authoritarian and post-heroic narratives that have dominated Western projections of the war. However, the dialogical dimensions of the tour and their experience of everyday life in Vietnam also commonly provides tourists with greater agency to mourn the death of Western soldiers. It is argued that through media portrayals and word of mouth such ‘dark’ tourist experiences have a broader influence in the understanding of history and in shaping debate within the cultural public sphere.