Image Creators and Image Consumers
International trade in tourist crafts is now a billion dollar industry. Recent figures have placed the worldwide demand for handicraft exports at approximately U. S. $2,600 million, with 37% of this demand met by Third World countries (M. Benjamin, 1981a:58). The United States is one of the largest single consumers of curio exports, not including the purchases of individual American tourists abroad. Nevertheless, serious sociological research on the tourist and ethnic arts, including objects found in the airports of the Third World, is relatively new.’ Often these objects are not considered to be art at all. Art historians point to these items as inauthentic, shoddy fakes that are unworthy of extensive study. At best, these arts are considered social signs of their authors’ unwitting acculturation and the demise of tradition. The African artist today who is working outside of a continuing tradition is considered to have been corrupted by commercialism and seduced by Western standards of success. This myth distorts the individual’s reasons for participating in the tourist art market in terms of personal aspirations, rewards, and responses to changing social and economic realities.
KeywordsCulture Broker Elite Culture Folk Religion Folk Culture Symbolic Exchange
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