zaterdag 5 september 2015

Freedom and democracy?


One of the things I was most curious about before coming to Jordan was the westernization of the country, because of the big contrasts between the western cultures and the Arabic cultures I expected to find little western influences in Jordan. On my trip trip to Morocco earlier in July, I realized how fast Morocco is changing and becoming more and more 'western'. Fashion, the last iPhone, American fast food chains on every corner etc. These are all small examples of westernization in my opinion.

In Jordan I found a complete other way of western influence by one of the biggest influencers of the world: The United States of America. The third morning we were invited by the local headquarters of USAID. This is an organization that funds the renovation of archaeological sites, stimulates the tourism industry and helps Jordan promoting itself as a tourist destination. These are all great things for a country like Jordan but after the local chief of USAID said during his presentation "we do these things because we're nice, we're American." and reading the famous slogan of USAID (From the American people) on almost every sign at the historical sites, I became only more skeptical and critical towards the roll of USAID and the USA.

As stated by Aitchison in tourism relations locals are force less to resist the power of global capital and the economic force of tourists and therefore act as agents.1 Other authors state that tourists may posses economic power but that cultural power generally resides with the local communities and that tourists are merely characterized as targets of these power relations.2 After seeing most of the tourist sites managed or funded by USAID I can not but criticize the control of the USA in this country of the tourism sites. I hope the Jordanian government will soon realize that not everything in and around their country needs to be governed and funded by a world power. Unfortunately that day will, given the circumstances in the region, not come soon.

1. Williams, S. (1998). Tourism geography), Psychology press, p.139-141.
2. Idem. p. 139-141.

3 opmerkingen:

  1. I have a question I would like you to ponder over: Would tourism in Jordan be better off with no involvement from USAid? Would the Jordanian government or private sector have the resources to invest in the infrastructure of the country that is so needed for tourism to develop?

  2. Thank for your question! I do realize that the Jordanian government or private sector might not be able to fund or construct the necessary infrastructure in the country to develop tourism. I am actually glad that such a beautiful country is helped out by an instancy with the necessary 'know how', and actually profits from it (we have seen it ourselves). I merely wanted to raise the question at what cost this 'profit' comes in the future but of course this is not a political blog :)

  3. I would argue that tourism in quite political, and especially in Jordan. The idea is to be aware of it and reflect critically on this interconnection.