«Trumping the Ethnic Card: How Tourism Entrepreneurs on Rodrigues tackled the 2008 Financial Crisis Carsten Wergin Social Policy Research Centre The ...»
Too many social and political factors played into the hands of the ATR negotiators. But the actual danger for Rodriguan development was not Mauritius, or an apparent reticence of the ‘mother(is)land’ to help. It was a Rodriguan society unable to produce political leadership that could work as a trustworthy partner in negotiations. The people that sponsored the political change in 2006 were the same entrepreneurs that now fought for help. Many of those who supported the MR back then only did so because the party seemed to offer a space for free expression, without judgement by an omnipresent leader. Most of them were interested in better living conditions, which for them were directly connected to economic well-being. What has become evident here is that both regional parties on Rodrigues, MR and OPR, need to take steps on how to incorporate a Société Civil into their political programs. OPR, especially its leader, has always considered itself to be the spokesperson for all Rodriguans. But many people on Rodrigues have by now enjoyed a level of education that allows them to speak for themselves, form their own opinions, and set up their own interest groups. They no longer simply listen to political leadership but know how to take action.
Conclusion Based on an ethnographic study of the tensions between local and national decision makers, tourism entrepreneurs and politicians, this article has discussed how notions of ethnicity in conjunction with the 2008 global financial crisis can be put to creative use. In the case of Rodrigues Island’s ATR versus the Mauritian authorities, the crisis reached well beyond economic development issues, right to the heart of an age-old ethnic conflict: the Malaise Créole within Mauritian society. Central to the analysis presented were the points of view of people directly engaged in and affected by political decision-making processes, ethnic difference and the global economic downturn. The article has presented the positive impacts of these people’s innovative responses to this ‘double-crisis’, i.e. the development of new partnerships and collaborations, corporate social responsibility, and pointed at their creative use of information technologies and social media such as Facebook, all of which might lead to a more inclusive concept of a ‘multiethnic Mauritian society’.
Tsing has criticized the imagery set up by globalization discourse and strategy at some length.
She has shown that culture and politics of scale making are at the route of ideologies, wishes and fantasies about global economic interconnectivity, as well as political and social networking (Tsing, 2000). In contrast to ethnographic approaches that follow these forms of understanding and theorize the global as something complex but inevitable (Urry 2005), she has argued that “we need to study how scales, geographies, eras, and other imaginative terrains are differentially and dialogically negotiated, refused, or erased” (Tsing, 2000: 345).
It has been argued that tourism enlarges and transnationalizes the social spaces of host communities. When introduced as a new system of production and exchange, it modifies institutional frameworks. Within this new context of consumer-led economies, production becomes geared to the symbolic and aesthetic. Formerly irrelevant community practices can become relevant in this process, elevated to the status of symbolic resources that are mobilized to define and delimit local identity (Robinson & Picard, 2006; Lash & Urry, 1994).
There is however a need to go beyond this understanding of symbolism and aesthetics that focuses on tourism as a globalist concept; a touristification of the world. As an attempt to include the mobilization of people into the ideologies surrounding tourism, I have traced ATR’s project as a particular historical event and followed its movements from demonstrations on Rodrigues to the negotiation table of the Mauritian government, via the rosé room of the house of a former President and the radio stations of the nation. This entangles the ATR initiative with local issues of translation and mobilization. It also moves the ethnographic discussion “into those cracks most neglected by unselfconscious reliance on global futurism, globalist conflation, and global circulation” (Tsing, 2000: 347). The concreteness of the ethnographic account connects mobility and mobilization; identities and interests are formed and travel as “place-transcending interactions” with open outcomes (ibid.: 350). The close reading of ATR’s project changes the geographical and political perception of Mauritius, beyond its globalist self-understanding as a ‘rainbow nation’. It proves to be a concrete historical episode with arguable repercussions in the future.
132 Trumping the Ethnic Card in Rodrigues
On 5 February 2012, the Organisation Du People Rodriguais under the leadership of Serge Clair won the regional elections on Rodrigues and regained its leading political power on the island. This change has been foreshadowed by the events described above. It presents a new attempt of the Rodriguan people to establish a qualified political leadership that will work in their interests. Yet, this new attempt puts old political actors back into power so it remains to be seen whether OPR and its leader will acknowledge what their Société Civil is capable of and approach it differently from before.
All members of ATR are thanked for allowing the author insights into their work, sharing their stories and letting him accompany them on their journey. Thanks also to the Graduate School Society and Culture in Motion, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg for granting the author the Postdoctoral Fellowship that made this research possible.
References African Development Bank-OECD (2008) African Economic Outlook, meeting of Strategy and Policy Group, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, 13-14 September 2007, Aladin, I. (1993) Economic Miracle in the Indian Ocean: Can Mauritius Show the Way?
Stanley, Republic of Mauritius, Editions de l'Océan Indien.
Boswell, R. (2006) Le Malaise Créole: Ethnic Identity in Mauritius, New York, Berghahn.
Bräutigam, D. (1997) ‘Institutions, Economic Reform, and Democratic Consolidation in Mauritius’, Comparative Politics, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 45-62.
Bunwaree, S. (2002) ‘Economics, Conflicts and Interculturality in a Small Island State: The Case of Mauritius’, Polis/RCPS/CPSR. Vol. 9, Special Issue, pp. 1-19.
Bunwaree, S. (2001) ‘The Marginal in the Miracle: Human Capital in Mauritius’, International Journal of Educational Development, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 257-271.
Bunwaree, S. & Kasenally, R. (2007) ‘Introduction’ in S. Bunwaree & R. Kasenally (eds.) Rights and Development: A Reader, Reduit, Mauritius, OSSREA, pp. 1-30.
Carroll, B.W. & Carroll, T. (2000a) ‘Accommodating Ethnic Diversity in a Modernizing Democratic State: Theory and Practice in the Case of Mauritius’, Ethnic & Racial Studies, Vol.
23, No. 1, pp. 120-142.
Carroll, B.W. & Carroll, T. (2000b) ‘Trouble in Paradise: Ethnic Conflict in Mauritius’, Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 25-50.
Comaroff, J. & Comaroff, J. (2009) Ethnicity Inc, Chicago IL, University of Chicago Press.
Chatterjee, P. (2006) The Politics of the Governed, New York, Columbia University Press.
Dommen, E. & Dommen, B. (1999) Mauritius: An Island of Success. A Retrospective Study 1960-1993, Oxford, James Currey.
Eisenlohr, P. (2006) Little India: Diaspora, Time, and Ethnolinguistic Belonging in Hindu Mauritius, Berkeley CA, University of California Press.
Eriksen, T.H. (1998) Common Denominators: Ethnicity, Nation-Building and Compromise in Mauritius, Oxford, Berg.
Eriksen, T.H. (1994) ‘Nationalism, Mauritian Style: Cultural Identity and Ethnic Diversity’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 549-574.
Greig, A., Turner. M. & D’Arcy, P. (2011) ‘The Fragility of Success: Repositioning Mauritian Development in the Twenty-First Century’, Island Studies Journal, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 157-178.
Kasenally, R. (2011) ‘Mauritius: Paradise Reconsidered’, The Journal of Democracy, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 160-169.
Khoodabux, I. (2000) The Anatomy of Mauritius, Port Louis, Mauritius Printing Specialists.
Lash, S. & Urry, J. (1994) Economies of Signs and Space, London, Sage.
Laville, R. (2000) ‘The Politics of the Rainbow: Creoles and Civil Society in Mauritius’, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 277-294.
Lincoln, D. (2006) ‘Beyond the Plantation: Mauritius in the Global Division of Labour’.
Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 44, No. 1, pp. 59-78.
Miles, W.F.S. (1999) ‘Creole Malaise in Mauritius’, African Affairs, No. 98, pp. 211-228.
Mukonoweshuro, E, (1991) Containing Political Instability in a Poly-Ethnic Society: The Case of Mauritius. Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 199-224.
Neveling, P. & Wergin, C. (eds.) (2009) Re-Scaling the Anthropology of Tourism (Special Journal Dossier), Etnográfica, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 315-438.
Robinson, M. & Picard, D. (2006) Tourism, Culture and Sustainable Development, UNESCO, Doc No CLT/CPD/CAD – 06/13.
RRA-Magazine (2010) Magazine of the Rodrigues Regional April.
www.gov.mu/portal/sites/rra_portal/download/rramagazine/tourist.pdf Selvon, S. (2005) A Comprehensive History of Mauritius, Port Louis, MDS.
Tsing, A. (2000) The Global Situation. Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 327-360.
UNESCO (2012) Le Morne Cultural Landscape, http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1259.
Urry, J. (2005) ‘The Complexities of the Global’, Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 22, No. 5, pp. 235-254.
Vellien, C. (1999) ‘Rioting in Mauritius set off by Jail Death of Singer’, The Guardian (UK), 25 February 1999, www.guardian.co.uk/world/1999/feb/25/7 Wergin, C. (2010) Kréol Blouz: Musikalische Inszenierungen von Identität und Kultur, Cologne, Böhlau.
Williams, S. (ed.) (2004) Tourism: Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences, London, Routledge.
Wynne, B. (2005) ‘Risk as Globalizing ‘Democratic’ Discourse? Framing Subjects and Citizens’, in M. Leach, I. Scoones & B. Wynne (eds.) Science & Citizens: Globalization & the Challenge of Engagement, London, Zed, pp. 66-82.