Lonely Planet : ethnocentrism, genuine and authentic

Posted on 17 août 2011


Ethnocentrism is the tendency to believe that one’s ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are measured in relation to one’s own […] (Wiki)

I wonder if anyone ever noticed : Lonely Planet travel guides are written exclusively by Westerners, whether the Bible is about Sahara or the Andes, or Tokyo. That sounds a little strange as one would expect local populations  – let’s say Mexicans, for instance – to have their own travel guide-book about their country.

Unfortunately, it is not the case,  and eventually, locals will have  to buy the Lonely Planet, written by a foreigner to their own culture, if they want to know about their places of interest ». Surely, if they wrote their own, the  catering industry standards and attractions would differ quite a big bit !

Panama or NY or Delhi or globalization of misery

So nationals will muse on the « genuine » old horse carts – to be found only in LP, please follow the steps – or learn that they will meet « authentic » indigenous tribes if they complete the 4 day trekking described below. Might be that the autochtons don’t give a damn about their antique outfit and would rather go shopping at a mall – and I suspect that is what a local writer would say – but hell, the editors are not here to talk about globalization, they have some dreams to sell.

Likewise, the Follower is inclined in patronizing local people in order to enlighten them upon their environment : typically, it will be explained that « do no eat that ! , this specie is protected » although it has been the local custom for hundreds of years, before mass tourism came in. For instance, a typical guide-book would illustrate a country like India with loads of pictures staging remote authentic villages, or anachronic means of transportation whereas an Indian would publish pics of the brand new Delhi Metro or the Poona skyscrapers, showing the entire world how « civilized » it is now.

Have you ever noticed the relationship to time, as described in the Lonely Planet ? Time is then coined as « elastic », tourists are not supposed to give much credit to any appointments made by locals. It’s just a matter of considering the motto « time is money » , so american …

In conclusion, when reading The Bible about any country, I have the feeling that I only get what the author already thought before setting foot in the place. In on word, bias, myths, and a description of a lost paradise. Bad news for the dreams traffickers, the salvages do not want to remain salvages, damn it!