An engaging social history of foreign tourists’ dreams, the African tourism industry’s efforts to fulfill them, and how both sides affect each other.
Since the nineteenth century, foreign tourists and resident tourism workers in Africa have mutually relied upon notions of exoticism, but from vastly different perspectives. Many of the countless tourists who have traveled to the African continent fail to acknowledge or even realize that skilled African artists in the tourist industry repeatedly manufacture “authentic” experiences in order to fulfill foreigners’ often delusional, or at least uninformed, expectations. These carefully nurtured and controlled performances typically reinforce tourists’ reductive impressions—formed over centuries—of the continent, its peoples, and even its wildlife. In turn, once back in their respective homelands, tourists’ accounts of their travels often substantiate, and thereby reinforce, prevailing stereotypes of “exotic” Africa. Meanwhile, Africans’ staged performances not only impact their own lives, primarily by generating remunerative opportunities, but also subject the continent’s residents to objectification, exoticization, and myriad forms of exploitation.