A la moda dai Salamun : tourism, experiences and identity in an Italian alpine village : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Social Anthropology at Massey University
The people of the European Alps have been the focus of considerable ethnographic research since the late nineteen fifties. During the same period, their cultures have been profoundly transformed by the influence of rapidly developing mass-tourism. Studies in Alpine ethnography have generally taken one of two theoretical approaches, either examining the histories and cultures of mountain-dwelling peoples as ecological adaptations to a marginal ecological environment, or examining their historical situation as one of political and economic "dependency". Research from both perspectives has tended to ignore tourism as a central focus of inquiry. When studies have addressed tourism and its impacts, researchers have generally neglected the existential dimensions of the experience of change, focusing more commonly on structural effects. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork, I argue that the major cultural impact of tourism from the perspective of the people of Salamone, a heavily touristed village in the Italian Alps, has been a pervasive process of "cultural disenchantment”. Tourism, along with other cultural forces at play in contemporary Italian society has, in the view of Salamonesi themselves, alienated them from a sense of the past and from local traditions. My study explores the means by which the members of this community act to recover historical experience and a sense of place, and adopt historical idioms of expression to both display identity and boundary it from what they perceive as the culturally homogenising effects of the tourist presence. From a perspective grounded in existential and phenomenological anthropology, I focus on three modes by which historical experience is constituted; historical inscription of the landscape and village space; ethnomimetic enactments of historical roles and behaviours; and lastly, the poetics of social interaction with tourists and other villagers. I argue that these modes provide common forms of expression within which individuals make complex and sometimes contradictory statements about who they are, how they perceive contemporary realities, and how they imagine the cultural and political future in a rapidly unifying Europe. The experience of long-term fieldwork and a prolonged personal engagement with Salamonese have also opened the possibility of a sustained reflection on the nature of ethnographic inquiry and fieldwork practice. This reflection is the second major theme of this study. Just as Salamonesi "take up" what is given to them by history and transform its meaning through practical means, I argue that practical experience and embodied knowledge lead us to recast our assumptions about the relationship between theory and experience, and the nature and intent of anthropological understanding.