Performing authenticity : the game of contemporary backpacker tourism
Master of Arts
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The purpose of this thesis is to analyze contemporary backpacker tourism in Australia. It is an investigation into the degree to which aspects of backpacker tourism have become incorporated into mainstream culture despite backpacker tourism’s image of being alternative. It is also a study which investigates the degree to which the image of the alternative is marketed to backpacker tourists. The thesis examines the manner in which backpacker tourists seek to escape the constraints of Western, post-industrial existence by engaging in a form of travel which is thought to be purer than mass-tourism. This is also an examination of the failure of these tourists to escape the matrix of the Western constraints they seek to escape. Research was conducted by way of participant observation in the backpacking culture in Australia for a period of four months. Information was collected by way of observation, participant observation, and interviews with individuals located within the backpacking community. Data collection yielded results which demonstrate the high degree to which contemporary backpacker tourism has become incorporated into mainstream capitalist culture. Most aspects of the pursuit which are believed to fulfil the desired escapism are actually part of the mass-tourist infrastructure. Accommodation, transportation, activities, and social behaviours are all aspects which have become commodified and marketed to these travelers. As such, the conclusion which was made is that there is very little about contemporary backpacking which is alternative. Furthermore, contemporary backpacking has become a game played by travelers who operate in a theater of perceived escapism and alternativeness. It is a game, however, which is completely within confined post-industrial capitalism.