Urban tourism via dispossession of oeuvres

Labor as a common denominator

in Focaal
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  • 1 Universitat de les Illes Balears marc.morell@uib.cat

Abstract

Most of the anthropology of tourism has focused either on authenticity or on the commoditization of culture. Furthermore, tourism has been looked at as a service sector and, at most, as an urban strategy. Few authors have investigated the organization of (in)formal labor in the tourism industry outside the wage form. I address this gap by looking at the living and dead labor that the production of cultural heritage is about. I argue that the tourism industry transforms longlabored spaces and existing collective use values into commodities. After illustrating this argument with sketches from the Ciutat de Mallorca (Balearic Islands, Spain), I conclude that the relation between the dead labor and the living labor that produce heritage determines people’s differential access to its commoditized outcome.

This city is itself ‘oeuvre’, a feature which contrasts with the irreversible tendency towards money and commerce, towards exchange and products. Indeed the oeuvre is use value and the product exchange value.

(Lefebvre 1996: 66)

On living statues and red herrings

In the past decade, following a trend set by major cities such as Barcelona, it has become increasingly common, especially in the summer months, to find human statues in the major squares and boulevards of the Centre Històric (historic center) of Ciutat, also known as Palma, the capital of the island of Majorca and of the Balearic Islands (Spain). The Centre became a heritage site, a Monument, back in 1964 and seeks UNESCO’s international recognition since Majorca’s largest mountain range (Serra de Tramuntana) became a World Heritage Site in 2011 (see Morell 2015b). In one of the busiest squares, Roberto, a 50-year-old Uruguayan, makes a living by working long hours as a human statue under the summer sun. He wears heavy cloaks to look like a gold-cast angel. Passing tourists stop and leave tips in exchange for a photo.

If Roberto is lucky, he will earn 15 to 25 euros a day, about enough to pay for shelter and food. Yet being a human statue is not an easy task. Like other Spanish cities, the municipal government of Ciutat has imposed strict regulations on the use of public space under the label “civic living together” (Ajuntament de Palma 2013). Panhandling, playing in public spaces, offering sexual services, drinking alcohol, dissenting, and protesting, as well as street art such as graffiti, musical performances, and human statues, are now considered offenses under a “new citizenism” that, researchers and activists claim, aims to create the ultimate tamed political object (cf. Anonymous 2007; Delgado 2016; Domínguez Sánchez 2010).

Behind all this there is a bigger political-economic picture. According to the World Tourism Organization, tourism is the fastest growing industry across the globe. In 2016, for example, there were 1,235 million overnight visitors worldwide (UNWTO 2017: 3) of which 15,371,922 were tourists staying in the Balearic Islands (ATIB 2017: §§ 2–3), with barely five thousand square kilometers of land and a little more than a million inhabitants. While waiting for further official data to become available for 2011–2020, the statistics show that throughout 2009, more than 91 percent of the officially employed population of the Balearic archipelago worked in service and building activities (Sansó Rosselló 2011: 172–173), and tourism businesses in the strict sense employed almost 12 percent of the workforce throughout the year (ATIB 2012: 129).

The industry dictates government policy (Amer Fernández 2006), which urges society to always be at work. A campaign held in 2004 by IBATUR, the Balearic Institute for the Promotion of Tourism, for instance, encouraged taking politeness a step further by opening one’s own home: “A tourist, a friend. Make them come back.” Such an image reproduces the jocose depiction that Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria, a well-known Central-European aristocrat and pioneer traveler to Majorca, wrote in 1871:

Any outsider, even if a complete stranger, is welcomed, and Majorcans will not get tired of lavishing attention upon him. Likewise, they will do anything in their power to treat him kindly, and it becomes a question of honor to regale the visitor and show him the beauties of the island and of the city.

(De Austria 1985: 177)1
For hosts to be part of the beauties of the island was not part of the script—at least not then. Yet, many years later, we find people disguised as statues peppering urban public spaces. Although one may argue that Roberto and his peers are just panhandlers in disguise, I contend that these statues have much in common with those Sepik River Papuans whom Dennis O’Rourke (1988) filmed in the late 1980s. There, the Sepik landscape included local carvings, lifestyles, and even bodies, all of which were on display for the lust of tourists in search of an authenticity that faded as soon as a price was set on it.

However, in contrast with most anthropological literature on tourism, my aim is not to offer an example of commoditized modernization or to merely signal how the cultural alienation that the leisure industry brings leads to the search for authenticity. If this were so, the example of the living statue alone would be too distracting since it does not really illustrate anything like authenticity. After all, Roberto adapts his performance to a stage approved by the tourist industry. The implications of this approval are important for the study of heritage and the labor relations the global tourism industry requests since it not only signals the importance that the production of space has for this industry but also illustrates the ways in which people are involved. Such an approach is absent in the main contributions made so far to the anthropology of tourism.

At most, the labor aspect of the tourism industry is touched on in references to the alienation of the tourist or the acculturation of the host (e.g., Boissevain 1996; V. Smith 1989). Whether in terms of the sacredness involved in traveling and the rite of passage it entails (Graburn 1989), or behind the semiotic frontispieces that tourism capital builds, where the “real” back regions are to be found (MacCannell 1999: 91–108); the theme of authenticity is omnipresent. Indeed, authenticity may allow us to work on aspects such as “semiology,” “political economy,” and “cultural and social change” (Selwyn 1998: 1).

Yet, as Patrick Neveling and Carsten Wergin (2009) have argued, such an emphasis on authenticity is a common shortcoming in the anthropology of tourism, which focuses on commoditization at best but hardly considers tourism a global industry. Even relatively recent approaches continue to focus, in one way or another, on questions of authenticity. While David Picard (2011) examines the economy of tourism in relation to the modernization blueprint it holds, Michael Di Giovine (2009) expands on how the sacred attributes of authenticity are targeted and granted by the global strategy of the political structure of UNESCO, and Jenny Chio (2014), who discusses the labor embodied in guest-host relations, invokes the construction of the authentic as a means of including even more attractions into the tourist industry.

However, tourism also opens obsolete landscapes to new markets without necessarily resorting to the culture-by-the-pound rationale (Greenwood 1989). Precisely to overcome this, some authors have signaled the importance not of commoditization per se but of the construction of authenticity either as a way of making meaning out of tourism (Shepherd 2002) or of producing it (Bruner 2005). As Edward Bruner suggests, unless we abandon all misleading fantasies and only focus on the performance of “authentic tourist productions,” authenticity—where it is to be found or what is or is not authentic—is nothing but a red herring (2005: 5). Discourse-based explanations closely follow the flaws found in performative approaches.

Take Noel Salazar, who focuses on the mobile aspects of global tourism. He views the flow of discourse as fundamental since it is a fact, he argues, that tourist sales precede consumption (2010: 47–77). However, tourist sales are never made on empty grounds. Performance and discourse feature prominently in various recent “turns” in tourism studies—a post-structural, a postmodern, a cultural, and even a critical turn. At the same time, these turns have been accused of ignoring the class dimension of capital and labor in the global tourist industry (Bianchi 2009; McGuckin 2005). As Stephen Britton has argued, tourism is a “predominantly capitalistic organised activity” (1991: 475). This article focuses on the character of what lays behind and ahead of the relation between labor and capital in the tourism industry.

Therefore, the next two sections respectively introduce an analytical framework and offer empirical evidence that develop the idea that the “production of space” that tourism encourages feeds on the dispossession of commons that are to be found in heritage, always understood as a collective oeuvre. Bearing in mind Eric Wolf’s argument that “production” is best understood as an “active engagement with nature and the concomitant ‘reproduction’ of social ties” (1997: 75), in the first section I contend that the tourist industry seeks spoils labored by social formations that are not capitalistically organized. Based on my research in Majorca, the second section illustrates these arrangements by looking into the making of heritage and how it contributes to the capitalistic production and reproduction of space—for at the end of the day, as I mention in my concluding remarks, it is not the authenticity of Roberto’s performance that draws tourists to the Centre in the first instance, but rather the stage he mounts.

Uncommon (man)oeuvres on labor

According to Wolf (1997: 73–100), traces of previous modes of production are still at work within the capitalist one. William Roseberry (2002: 63–64) holds similar views. I develop this argument for the global tourism industry and identify how other forms of noncapitalistic surplus extraction coexist with exploited waged labor. Furthermore, capital not only benefits from these other forms of value extraction but also essentially owes itself to them. To determine the relationship between the capitalist exploitation of labor and noncapitalist forms of surplus extraction is ultimately a matter of social—and indeed, historical—analysis. All this boils down to the fact that the workplace does not necessarily contain all the labor that is out there.

In line with this observation, not always fully developed concepts such as “immaterial labor” (Hardt and Negri 1994: 3–21), “interpretive labor” and “imaginative labor” (Graeber 2012), or “collective labor” (Harvey 2012: 67–88) signal a break with restricting labor to the shop floor (Narotzky 2018). Even “commoning is embedded in a labor process [and c]ommon rights are entered into by labor” (Linebaugh 2008: 45). Labor is found at all levels within society, to the extent that it decides capital’s outcome (for an early thesis on the “social factory,” see Tronti 2001). Building on these attempts to understand labor “broadly,” and in tune with my earlier work on the labor that the urban entails (Morell 2015a), I explore both the dead and living labor (Marx 1976: 975–1019) involved in the making of heritage.

Heritage requires not only dead labor, that is, constant capital as in raw materials, tools, infrastructure, and machinery (e.g., the “heritageable” object) but also a living labor (variable capital) that grants heritage its uses, meaning, and legal framing. Regarding dead labor, I evaluate Henri Lefebvre’s (1996; 1991; 1976a) concept of oeuvre, which is most consistently formulated in a volume devoted to the idea of representation:

Let’s immediately state the term “oeuvre” will be dealt with in all its amplitude. Are there art oeuvres? Yes, but … they will also involve greater oeuvres: the city, the urban, and the monumental. Could we not also consider as oeuvres sociality and individuality, the everyday, and the extraordinary, even institutions, language, and also nature made by practice?

(1983: 27)
This has important implications for understanding what dead labor is to heritage tourism. For although related to the work of art and to nature’s creation—natural joy as opposed to productive labor (Lefebvre 1976a: 15), oeuvres are not Walter Benjamin’s (1999) “works of art.” Lefebvre’s views go in an unusual yet not necessarily opposite direction. Benjamin challenges the reproducibility of unique works of art under capitalism, their democratic consumption, their conversion into mass-produced commodities—a notion that would possibly fit as much with the concept of authenticity as it would fit the notion of representation.
Instead, oeuvres for Lefebvre are unique expressions of a past intense noncapitalistic collective cooperation (1976a: 119; 1978: 96; 1983: 28). As we will see, just as what many authors have come to call “the commons” is no more than oeuvres; “commoning” (e.g., Casas-Cortés et al. 2014 and Kalb 2017) is a carbon copy of the “collective cooperation.” Likewise, oeuvres for Lefebvre are irreplaceable, are unique, and do not enter the automatic reproduction of social relationships that Benjamin foresees—since it is only commodities that exist for mass consumption (1976a: 32–34). The relation that products and oeuvres have with the space they occupy is not the same either:

If indeed there is the need at all to preserve the distinction between works [oeuvres] and products, its import must be quite relative. Perhaps we shall discover a subtler relationship between these two terms than either identity or opposition. Each [oeuvre] occupies a space; it also engenders and fashions that space. Each product too occupies a space, and circulates within it. The question is therefore what relationship might exist between these two modalities of occupied space.

(1991: 77)
This relationship between the space occupied by oeuvres and the space occupied by products is insightful because it signals the conversion of oeuvres into heritage products. In short, oeuvres are not commodities but may become commodities, and because they originally do not bear exchange values, they can pose a serious alternative to capital’s logic.2 Eventually, though, oeuvres are labored into products, therefore succumbing to capital in the form of unique commodities. Moreover, oeuvres’ foremost attribute is that they are about uses collectively toiled by people either preceding or in the margins of incorporation into global capitalism. These collectively built uses are (re)captured by capitalism and the global tourism industry in diverse ways:

Capitalism integrates and invents anew sectors so as to engross production and the generation of surplus. It disintegrates and partially reintegrates the historic city, precapitalist agriculture; it invents the leisure sector; it extends to the mass production of weapons, of energy, etc.

(Lefebvre 1976b: 322, emphasis added)
It is capitalism, Lefebvre writes, that colonizes peripheries and turns oeuvres into ex novo consumables after disintegrating their context. But does this mean that oeuvres are finite, authentic substance? To develop this problem and to answer it further below, it is important to consider the relation between oeuvres and the living labor found in the commons, that is, the collective cooperation that makes oeuvres possible—a relation that nevertheless hinges on the concept of property under capitalism.

As Lefebvre explains, the very same self-destruction capitalism inflicts on itself constantly creates new peripheries within it. Similar versions of Lefebvre’s disintegration and reintegration thesis are what David Harvey calls “accumulation by dispossession” by which the expanded reproduction of capital (the commodity market, the exploitation of waged labor, etc.) is connected to activities based on fraud, predation, plunder (2003: 137–182). Even Wolf’s differentiation thesis in which capital solves its crises by resorting to implementing new waves of surplus extraction (1997: 296–309) refers to similar developments.

Yet all these accounts share a structural tendency in privileging capital, neglecting labor’s autonomy, reducing it to play the role of a mere pawn, and thereby deactivating the radicality of whatever content of social transformation labor may bear. As hinted at earlier, one conceivable way out with regard to forms of transforming living labor, may be found in rereading Lefebvre’s oeuvre under the light of the swathing and relatively recent literature that speaks of the commons. Take Donald Nonini, for instance, who defines the commons as “assemblages and ensembles of resources that human beings hold in common or in trust to use on behalf of themselves, other living human beings, and past and future generations of human beings, and which are essential to their biological, cultural, and social reproduction” (2006: 164).

The main difference between oeuvres and commons is that the former emphasizes dead labor—they are no longer in the making, but since they count as the constant capital, they may serve to make—while the latter are about the doings of living labor, that is, collective cooperation. Furthermore, unlike oeuvres, Nonini’s appreciation of the commons supports this recognition of the active human labor (“commoning” for Linebaugh), here expended as a relation of struggle maintained to protect commons from their enclosure via commoditization (168).

Indeed, capital also extracts surplus through ways other than the exploitation of the wage form of labor. It is in the uniqueness of the outcome of this ongoing struggle that the art of capturing class-monopoly rent happens: the increasing “value” of the built environment translates into increasing rents that real estate initiatives can claim (Harvey 2012: 89–112). Such a relation between protection and commoditization becomes highly dialectical, endlessly ongoing, and incredibly inspiring for understanding the making of heritage. The interdependency of the ideal types held by both poles leaves no space for the determination of one over the other:

The common is not, therefore, something that existed once upon a time that has since been lost, but something that is … continuously being produced. The problem is that it is just as continuously being enclosed and appropriated by capital in its commodified and monetized form, even as it is being continuously produced by collective labor.

(96)
The purpose of the commons “is not to provide alternatives to capital, but to make a particular node of capital … while somehow addressing the problems of reproduction at the same time” (De Angelis 2013: 612).3

Now, regarding tourism and the question of heritage, previously commoned oeuvres (dead labor) become “particular nodes of capital” while the collective labor of commoning is no other than living labor. The importance of examining the dead labor and the living labor in the social organization of heritage and hence the global tourism industry is crucial, since the common relation they maintain to capital stands at the base of the creation of value.

The next section illustrates how labor (both dead and living) breathes in and out of the Centre of Ciutat. In a way, I tease out how oeuvres are commoned. And although the process is not as neat as in theory, it does show in general lines how oeuvres and the space they occupy may become products, that is, current commodities for the leisure and real estate businesses that are the primary pillars of the global tourism industry, one that appears enormously localized, in this case, at the urban level.

A tour (de force) on urban labor

In 2012, when I was about to close my field research in Es Barri4 (close to where Roberto works as a living statue), Gabi, a bar owner mostly catering for locals, told me not to leave. She insisted, “You see, the history of the neighborhood hasn’t finished yet.” Gabi was right. For 10 years she had been unsuccessfully petitioning the City Council to prevent the entry of cars into the square so that she could get a license to put tables and chairs outside her bar. Suddenly, however, she saw the new, Swedish-owned hotel across the square managing to clear away the cars to make way for its select international clientele. Gabi was furious. She finally realized that Es Barri, indeed the whole Centre, was no longer for people like her. She, who had arrived from a humble background in mainland Spain in the mid-1970s, stayed throughout the slum era of drug dealing and sex procuring, managed to invest in a bar from which she built hope, was not allowed to see a spruced-up future in Es Barri.

In December 2014, the City Council unanimously announced the candidacy of Ciutat to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the slogan “Palma, a cultural landscape by the sea.” The councilor for culture announced, “It would be an important recognition for the capital and a necessary one considering how the local authority wants to transform Palma and establish it as one of the most popular city break destinations in Europe” (Majorca Daily Bulletin 2014). The idea was to link the Centre to the UNESCO recognition of the northern mountain range. Yet, since 1964, the Centre has been considered national heritage, to “safeguard the ancient neighborhoods and the artistic buildings so to avoid the building of modern constructions that denature the monumental concept of the city” (BOE 1964: 8555).

This is where questions of labor, oeuvres, commons, and capitalism come in. The artistic buildings of the 1964 declaration mostly referred to ancient sites of political, religious, and economic power. These central and ancient areas, 50 years later targeted as a heritage site, also housed merchants and aristocrats. Surrounding the core, other neighborhoods had been home to the working class, including an urban lumpenproletariat. In his memoirs of the second half of the nineteenth century, the urban engineer Ferrà Perelló wrote in 1918:

[The poor] were formed by all the proletarian families that due to a lack of resources lived in poverty, including fortunate workers, those with few skills, those that were lazy, and those who, because of illness or reversal of fortune, went down in the world and were known as the unwilling penniless. They all rotted together. … During the last third of the century, the young poor had already become assistants in … steam-powered industries and worked in all sorts of workshops … invading and transforming our city (previously calm and sleepy) into a little Babylon.

(1996: 123–125)
These “poor” “transformed” the city through not only their workplace labor but also the labor they invested in setting up and supporting the community via their annual neighborhood celebrations, and later via their opposition to renewal and eviction, overall commoning a unique oeuvre out of their everyday life. This is partly what I call “urban labor” (Morell 2015a).

The framework of the 1964 declaration made it impossible to conceive of the entire city center as a monument. Most ancient neighborhoods surrounding the core would never qualify as artistic buildings. So, since 1964, the seignorial buildings, singular as they were compared with the rest, would enjoy full protection, while the working-class neighborhoods would act as buffer areas framing the now “artistic” buildings. In fact, the Majorcan MIT-trained planner who inspired the 1964 declaration, Gabriel Alomar Esteve, had already ordered the demolition of substantial portions of the Centre after the Spanish Civil War in 1939 to, as he himself officially argued, “provide jobs”: “The aim of the City Council was to undertake an urban sanitation of the inner city principally aiming at providing work to the thousands of discharged soldiers who were left jobless. Life in the city was exceedingly difficult” (1986: 19). However, the city that these former soldiers were pulling down and rebuilding was not for them. Alomar had clearly designed it bearing the elite in mind: “The case of Palma is the one of the gentleman that has inherited from his ancestors an old place in ruins but full of rancid beauties and family memories” (2000: 8).

Alomar’s 1943 regeneration project, though, was far too large. Although it completely bulldozed and rebuilt some areas, making place for the most luxurious and expensive parts of Ciutat today, parts of the project were not achieved, and many working-class neighborhoods remained. Important for developments after 2014, however, was that later interpretations have argued that the 1964 declaration could only be understood in terms of the profitable increase in value of the built environment that had been left untouched:

concealing under such declaration the possibility of carrying out renewal works, and architectural projects planned since 1943 … the decree of preservation of 1964 for the old town of Palma maintained part of [the spirit of] the renewal schemes, leaving the areas covered by these without any kind of protection. It was then more profitable to invest in the renewable areas than in the rest of the historic center.

(Riera i Frau 1994: 93–94)
So, the grounds were laid, although the investment needed for renewing the “unprotected” oeuvres would not arrive until decades later (Morell and Franquesa 2011: 202–206). The reason was what is known as the geographical seesaw of capital: capital moves to where the rate of profit is higher, leaving specific areas underdeveloped, which in turn eventually become highly profitable (N. Smith 1990: 149). Majorca’s early insertion in the global tourist industry, especially since the 1950s, led developers to areas that are more lucrative: the island’s shores (see Murray 2015; Pallicer Mateu and Salom-Blázquez 2016). This was followed by the exodus of the younger working-class population from the urban center.

This movement of capital, and hence people, caught the “unprotected” neighborhoods in a contrasting underdevelopment spiral that would eventually attract poor and marginal elements. Those were the days when Gabi the bar owner came to Es Barri to work for her aunty. The underworld literature genre linked to this phase of Es Barri existed for years: [Mr. Martorell] rarely visits the streets where horses [as in heroin] run about and, if he were to, he would never do it alone. Old whores waylay him on the street and he buys them a white coffee or to two drops of whatever they want with an imperceptible right-hand gesture to the waiter. In the past he screwed them all at will. … Those others who owe him the invested capital or yields of some sort of loan avoid him and glance at him out of the corner of their eyes. (Capellà 1998: 13)

Such was the setting until the mid-1980s, when a first general scheme for the whole city was worked out with the help of different social movements that had commoned their way through by partaking in the recovery of various cultural, environmental, and residential rights (Ajuntament de Palma 1985). One target was “to save” Es Barri from decay. However, a civil society organization had to countersign such an intervention. The Association for the Revitalization of Old Centers (ARCA) was created in 1987 to take on this role by creating awareness among the public and drawing attention to the oeuvres that had to become heritage (Morell 2009: 352–353).

Meanwhile, together with EU funds from the URBAN Program, the public authorities in liaison with different private interests designed a specific scheme for Es Barri. Thanks to pressure from ARCA, the newly founded resident’s association (Canamunt), and the major environmentalist group in the archipelago initially considered conserving the industrial heritage and keeping the marginalized population (Morell 2011; Morell and Franquesa 2011). The language used on that specific occasion invoked the memory of the dead and living labor of the city:

If you pay attention to the names of the streets, you will realize they are about the jobs of working people; they remind us of the hands of those who earned a living offering a tireless effort to the community. Likewise, this entire old city is a museum of itself. But watch out, this is a living museum of those who once built it, lived it, and labored it slogging their guts out.

(Bonet 1991)
Via commoning, the different organizations, and especially that of the residents, managed to temporarily “save” the neighborhood. They needed the alliance of old working-class pensioners who had remained in place with both the leftover population from the times of decay and the different intellectual and bohemian newcomers that kept moving into the area because of cheaper rents and prices in comparison to the rest of the city. But this specific social cocktail helped to build what would become a rogue and edgy environment—not yet attractive to the global tourism industry but one on which private investors had already set their eyes. Unlike the one that would end up in built heritage, an oeuvre of a different kind was at work, this was a “social oeuvre,” if we can call it so.
It is important here to stress the fleeting character of oeuvres. Lefebvre’s (1996, first published in 1968) concern for the now 50-year-old “right to the city,” in which he formulated his first views on “the city as an oeuvre,” qualified the city’s inhabitants as those who had “labored” the city, we may infer, into an ongoing oeuvre to which they therefore had a right. However, in a later formulation on abstract space, Lefebvre also sustained that these inhabitants could lose grip of their oeuvre under penalty of forfeiture to the ability of capital to subsume the creation of their common labor (1991: 229–291). Such an end to the right to the city would soon surface in the case of Es Barri. Only six years after Joan Bonet’s oeuvre-conscious speech, a social democrat responsible for town planning in the City Council opposition argued for the need to attract newcomers:

It is a positive step forward. The idea is good for intervening in the most degraded area and trying to revitalize it … What happens though is that there is a need to … define the kind of people we want to fill the hole with that was left by those who leave.

(Carles Bona, PSIB-PSOE spokesperson for urbanism, appearing in Oliver 1997: 27)
And so it was done. After the eviction of old residents, new neighbors came in (Morell 2015a). Further developments in the early 2010s involved the creation of a tourist area with opening hours that favored the major stakeholders in retailing and catering who happened to occupy prime land. Coincidently, the public space of this prime land is the main target of the regulation for the uses of public space, the one that affects Roberto’s performance. Some, like Gabi, managed to stay until new waves of gentrification in the form of the sharing economy’s short-term rentals bought her out in 2017. The opening of what are known as “boutique hotels” and the “Airbnbification” of the area reveals the latest step in the relation that the factors of production play in creating new value in the tourism economy of Ciutat (the constant capital of dead labor and the variable capital of the living labor).
In sum, once the common struggles of the 1980s and 1990s for preserving built heritage, such as ARCA’s or Canamunt’s efforts to present a robust and lively social fabric became a major concern for the public authorities, they worked against themselves, allowing a swifter commodification. Take, for instance, the following press feature that ponders on the conversion of a derelict palace into a hotel, albeit ignoring the social struggle of the mid-1990s, under the title “Sleeping like the Nobles of Palma”:

The rise of boutique hotels not only has a positive effect on the … heritage of the city, but also “in the whole of its surroundings, because they increase in value,” maintains … the Hotelier Association of Palma. This is supported from the point of view of the guest, as in the case of the former consul of Germany to the island. … While waiting for the arrival of the consul that had to relieve him, he rented an aparthotel … when it first opened in 2013, and he was astonished by the transformation of the neighborhood of Sa Gerreria. “When I used to live in the island between 1994 and 1998, no one dared to walk at night in this corner of Palma, because junkies and prostitutes were in control of the streets. Nowadays it has become a genuinely nice area and one feels extra safe,” he states.

(Wilms 2015: 15)
The quote brings together two important aspects this article has explored so far. Whereas, on the one hand, it stresses the link between heritage and the increasing value of property, it also supports the idea of “improvement” and highlights who makes a profit from dispossessing the spoils of history. It confirms the fact that Roberto’s stage and Gabi’s place for making a living has a history, one very much linked to the geographical seesaw of capital and how this affects the touristification of the urban milieu of Ciutat. As it stands, “improvement” does not have the same meaning for an old-time resident as for a newcomer, let alone a developer or a tourist-related businessperson.

Currently, this geographical seesaw of capital enables it to feed on the efforts of those (past and present) who either just live in Es Barri (and, I may add, the whole of Ciutat) or those who live there and invest time in consciously improving it. Whether in terms of commodifying oeuvres, or in terms of the enclosure of commons, the capitalistic global tourism industry is about incorporating “others.”

Conclusion: On tourism and its form of labor

So, for that seesaw to run, tourism is all it takes. For this, it incorporates Ciutat into a complex industry made up of transportation, accommodation, catering, attractions of all sorts, and so on. All of these involve a specific “tourism labor process.” Nevertheless, tourism also needs society to work as a whole, as evidenced in the “a tourist, a friend” campaign mentioned earlier. It seems that it is only thanks to tourism that the Balearic society exists: “We all know the importance tourism has in our society. In one way or another, everything revolves around this industry and, therefore, it needs to be addressed differentially” (Parlament de les Illes Balears 2011: 19).

No wonder a Balearic president held such a Maussian view (tourism as a “total social fact”) in his inaugural speech. This politics of place based on heritage designations is a good example of how tourism fashions space. Yet, to analyze this process, our understanding (as anthropologists) of labor is critical. When looking at the production sceneries for the tourism industry, we not only need to offer an account of the means used to transform them by conferring new meaning to them, but we should also identify the specific forms of labor needed for their creation, which gives an important historical underpinning to the insight that “[i]n tourism, after all, one person’s leisure is another person’s labor” (Chio 2014: xvii).

Later, in his 2011 inaugural speech, that former president would illustrate such a view for the case of the archipelago’s countryside:

It has been said for a long time that our primary sector is essential so that our main industry, tourism, can draw on the images of our islands’ landscape and likewise contribute to the diversity of the Balearic Islands’ environment that our visitors perceive, reflected in its crops, in a landscape modified by man in almost the whole of the territory.

(Parlament de les Illes Balears 2011: 21)
The detachment of these images from the oeuvres that make the territory ignores the fact that Majorca is eminently about real estate and tourism, and that it has been constructed as such for more than a century (Rullan Salamanca 2002). This especially applies to the case of the oeuvres of the Centre, those that make it valuable. On the one hand, oeuvres meet new use values thanks to the collective labor of distinct groups; on the other, the conversion of oeuvres into heritage often requires that these new use values reach their full exchange value.

Heritage is not a product per se, but rather the common stepping-stone toward the final commodity: in this case, the city measured by the square meter and promoted via tourism images. Furthermore, the development of the labor that heritage is made of offers new vistas to overcoming the dilemma of a heritage caught between the grandiloquent identity politics battled at the universal level that UNESCO claims to control (Meskell 2013)5 and its commercialization through its hoarding and circulation (Franquesa 2013). The economic logic of such a conservation process has led to much heritage inflation, noticeable in the proliferation of ever-new types of heritage sites (Franquesa 2013: 359).

However, there is an important omission in this straitjacketed but realistic picture: conservation for whom? The relation between the dead labor and living labor that heritage is about is flawed by the differential access people have to the outcome of their collective labor. Conservation and its profits will never be realized by Roberto, the living statue, or by Gabi the former bar owner, or even by the members of ARCA who helped to pave the way for the production of heritage, let alone for all those who live and give use to Ciutat. It is realized, rather, in the chain of dispossession initiated and maintained by public authorities, planners, developers, speculators, banks, digital platforms, and the financial capital required to gentrify neighborhoods and to build boutique hotels and turn residential accommodation into short-term holiday rentals across Ciutat, beyond Es Barri.

By implicating the entire society in the creation of value, the industry (here mediated by the regional state) is searching for the incorporation of an otherness, that is, the enclosure of commons. Or, as Lefebvre would have it, now that we are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of his “right to the city” and within it his first major formulation of the concept of oeuvre: its irreversible tendency toward exchange values. It is these social relations that are at the base of the creation of value that heritage holds and that the tourist industry looks for.

In conclusion, in contrast to most of the available literature, I have sought an anthropology of tourism tuned into a materialist conception of history, and peopled with interests, that accounts for the ways in which capitalism absorbs external peripheries and creates internal ones for the same purpose. Nevertheless, the relation between the dead labor and the living labor that heritage is about is determined by the differential access people have to the outcome of their collective labor, a common denominator that relates the labor that oeuvres embody with the labor that commoning repeatedly pumps in.

Acknowledgments

This article contributes to the development of the research project “Crisis y reestructuración de los espacios turísticos del litoral español” (CSO2015-64468-P). I want to thank the Programa Margalida Comas (Conselleria d’Innovació, Recerca i Turisme—Govern de les Illes Balears) for funding my research. I also thank Natalia Buier, Jose Mansilla, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful insights, and Patrick Neveling and Luisa Steur for their thorough editorial work. The feedback received from the conference panel “Capitalism and Global Anthropology: Marxism Resurgent” that they both put together at the IUAES 2013 conference held in Manchester proved extremely useful. Having said this, all views are exclusively mine. Finally, I dedicate this text to Júlia, Grazzja and Illiam, for whom it is well worth laboring oeuvres anew.

Notes
1.

All translations of quotes and excerpts are mine unless otherwise noted.

2.

I am here far from conflating exchange values and use values, something Desai (2011) characterizes as Proudhonism when dealing with the new communists of the commons. Desai maintains that any project aiming at the cessation of the production of value (as in exchange value) will necessarily entail the expansion of use values.

3.

In similar terms to those posed by De Angelis (2013), conservation practices in general, ranging from heritage to landscapes and nature itself—a form of commoning, if you wish—have ended up becoming a means toward accumulation and hence exploitation and control (cf. Büscher and Fletcher 2014; Kelly 2011; Macip and Zamora Valencia 2012; N. Smith 2007).

4.

Es Barri, also known as Sa Gerreria (The Pottery), is a neighborhood on the eastern margins of the Centre of Ciutat that for the past 25 years has been subject to an intensive process of state-led gentrification, hinging on a phase of stigmatization and calls for urban renewal (Morell 2009).

5.

The literature on UNESCO’s World Heritage politics is diverse. While some authors focus on conflict-free approaches to the values UNESCO World Heritage embodies (Labadi 2013), others acknowledge the plunder of the oppressed it takes (Collins 2008).

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Contributor Notes

Marc Morell is a social anthropologist based at the Department of Geography at the Universitat de les Illes Balears who mainly works on the class character of the production of space in market society. His most recent publications in English are “The Class Gap in Gentrification” (in Gentrification as a Global Strategy, Routledge, 2018) and “When Space Draws the Line on class” (in Anthropologies of Class, Cambridge University Press, 2015). Email: marc.morell@uib.cat

Focaal

Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology

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    • Export Citation
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    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Graburn, Nelson. 1989. “Tourism: The sacred journey.” In Smith 1989: 2136. First published 1977.

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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. 1994. Labor of Dionysus: A critique of the state-form. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

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