04 August 2016

Colonialism & white saviourism in tourism and trade

Travel writer/ editor/ photographer Bani Amor's work in Bitch magazine tackles the question of what it means to decolonize travel culture (tourism) as well as our trade relationships with people in the Global South.

In their article, "Spend & Save: The Narrative of Fair Trade and White Saviorism" (2016, Bitch), Amor takes a critical look at how the Fair Trade movement is embedded in the broader processes of global inequality supported by capitalism. This includes questions of gender, class, poverty, and narratives of white saviorism that have clear connections to colonialism: "The sad state of the savage Other necessitates civilizing via white/Western intervention, which maintains dominion over resources that sometimes trickle down to the needy via acts of charity."

This critique of Fair Trade emerges again in the follow-up interview with Amor: What Does it Mean to Decolonize Travel? (2016, Bitch). In this interview (2016, Bitch), Amor discusses why it is important to critically consider the social, political and historical power relationships that shape contemporary tourism and travel culture. In their work, they ask the kinds of questions that anthropologists are interested in when we think about tourism:
How do we look critically at the business of tourism and its historical relationship and present relationship to imperialism and colonialism? How does that affect people of color who not only travel, but who depend on the tourism industry as workers and laborers, usually cheap labor and menial labor? What is the relationship between these tourist workers—these communities who often experience sort of an occupation of foreigners, of Westerners, of mostly white people coming into their communities and shifting the local economies, the local culture—and how those communities relate to their culture?
Amor also speaks to questions of intersectionality (as queer, non-binary person of colour, an immigrant, with indigenous roots in South America, and a travel writer), positionality and reflexivity in this interview and their writing.

These articles, together or separately (alongside content from Amor's own website), speak to an anthropological perspective and provide an accessible take on the some of the ways in which 'positive' or well-intended relationships between the Global North and South -- through trade (consumption philanthropy) and tourism -- are nonetheless implicated in broader processes of inequality.

Quick links and additional resources: