Encounters with Authentic Embera Culture in Panama

in Journeys
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In this article I will compare indigenous cultural performances for outsiders in an allegedly 'inauthentic' Embera community in Panama, which welcomes tourists on a daily basis, with similar staged events in some other less accessible communities, which receive visitors much less frequently. I will challenge the idea introduced by several travellers who seek authentic experiences that the first community is 'unreal' and its repetitive representations of Embera culture are mechanical, sterile and unoriginal. I will argue that these repetitive cultural performances constitute real lived experiences, and do not deserve to be demeaned as inauthentic. I will further maintain that in the 'tourist' community, as well as in the less accessible settlements, the Embera respond to the same set of expectations. They imagine what Western visitors would appreciate from their culture and enact very similar representations of these generalised expectations.

Journeys

The International Journal of Travel and Travel Writing

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