Apr 17, 2013

Under the Tuscan Sun: Staged Authenticity

“Once abandoned, Castelfalfi, an 800-year-old Tuscan village, is being reborn. A German travel company purchased the town and began renovating it, with plans to make it a thriving town and resort (http://www.castelfalfi-resort.com/). The project, one of the largest such in Europe, promises to bring the village ‘back to life' by offering visitors an authentic taste of Tuscany… But how can a village created for foreigners retain any kind of genuine authenticity? ‘There is a chance this will become a Disneyland version of an Italian village,' says sociologist Pierluca Birindeli, a professor at Gonzaga University in Florence, ‘but Italy is used to trading on its history and past; we've been doing it since the times of The Grand Tour.” (Kirsten Hills, Sleeping beauty, The Florentine).

On the relation tourism-authenticity, you can read the following contributions:
-     MacCannell, D. (1973) Staged Authenticity: Arrangements of Social Space in Tourist
Settings, “American Journal of Sociology”, 79(3): 589-603.
-     MacCannell, D. (1976) The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class, Schocken Books
Inc., New York.
-     Urry, J. (1995) Consuming Places, London: Routledge.

“Touristic  consciousness  is motivated  by  its  desire  for authentic  experiences,  and  the  tourist  may  believe  that  he  is moving  in  this  direction,  but often  it  is  very  difficult  to  tell  for  sure  if  the  experience  is  authentic  in  fact.  It is  always  possible  that  what  is taken  to  be entry  into  a back  region  is  really  entry  into  a front  region  that  has  been  totally  set  up  in  advance  for  touristic  visitation” (MacCannell 1973, 597).
“A particular issue is that of authenticity. It is argued especially by MacCannell  that what tourists seek is the 'authentic', but that this is necessarily unsuccessful  since those being gazed upon come to construct artificial sites which keep the  inquisitive tourist away ... Tourist spaces are thus organised around what he  calls 'staged authenticity” (Urry 1995, 140).
“Touristic shame is not based on being a tourist but on not being tourist enough, on a failure to see everything the way it 'ought' to be seen. The touristic critique of tourism is based on a desire to go beyond the other 'mere' tourists to a more profound appreciation of society and culture, and it is by no means limited to intellectual statements. All tourists desire this deeper involvement with society and culture to some degree; it is a basic component of  their motivation to travel (MacCannell 1976, 10).