10 thoughts on “‘A village, or a zoo?’

  1. Holy hell, this reeked! Her attitude toward the the travel agencies that wouldn’t support this – I could practically see her stamping her foot with an, “Oh yeah? I’ll show you! I can TOO go see the long-necked women! Hmph!” She seemed as annoyed with anyone who’d stand in her way as she was with the elephants for not being ergonomically designed.

    The whole article was littered with crap like: “There was lush green vegetation and fields of corn as far as the eye could see, and I expected any moment to see an exotic tribal village emerge in front of me.”

    She seemed almost disappointed to find folks dressed in t-shirts instead of native “costumes”.

    Thing was, she admits she’d wanted to see these women from the time she was little. When she found out this could be considered unethical (apparently a surprise), she concludes that ultimately her journalism skills would help the Palaung more than harm them, and decides to forge on.

    She seemed really interested to discover if the women were being kept as “slaves” — made it seem as if her role as a journalist would help uncover this, thus justifying the trip. But even though “it is clearly true that money spent to visit them supports an artificial village from which they essentially cannot leave.”, she apparently concludes that’s not slavery and therefore not worthy of any great journalistic savior action.

    She goes on to say, “On the other hand, many of them appeared to prefer living in virtual confinement as long as they are paid and safe. According to what they told me, their situation beats the alternative of living in a repressive country plagued by abject poverty and hunger.

    Oh! Alright then! It’s OK now, folks — they LIKE it! It’s their CHOICE! Hop on the bus!

    Sounds suspiciously like those old justifications about enslaved Africans preferring those safe quarters on the plantation, over the alternative of being free in a repressive country.

    So basically, she justifies her childhood wish of seeing these “exotic” women with this whole journalism schtick, then writes an article that basically says nothing more than “some people think it’s oppressive, others don’t”, and does nothing but further justify her trip because it’s better for them than “the alternative”. Lame.

  2. “I don’t feel guilty about visiting the Padaung.” Well, that’s a relief.

    This is a horrible piece.

  3. So, it’s okay to be unethical and exploitative if you do it under the guise of journalism?

    “I’m going to write a story about it so I am certainly not part of the problem!”

    And because people claim to be okay with living under “village arrest” the writer is absolved of participation in othering them? Of course the idea that anyone would be afraid of retribution if they did speak out against their situation wasn’t brought up. Because that never happens.

    Frustrated now.

  4. my favorite part is when they are told over a loudspeaker to put their costumes on.

    National Geographic and the Animal Planet channel are known for using people as zoo animals.

  5. there’s a great documentary on this topic, cannibal tours, dennis o’rourke directed it. this isn’t something out of the ordinary, what the journalist is doing in that article. tourism, even in it’s simple forms, has the tendency to objectify the “visited subject”. what’s the first thing you do when you go somewhere ? you take a photo. it’s your first step to not understanding what is going on in that place. particularly in those “exotic” places. in o’rourkes movie, every single villager in that remote area in papua (if i am not mistaken), was making souvenirs for the tourists. that was their only income, and it was ok. and the tourists bought then, took pictures of them (one dollar), and everybody got what they came for.

  6. Yeah, I’m a wordy wench. I always go back later and think, ‘god, I could’ve just had my last little paragraph and said the same thing!’ Sheesh. Brevity is not my strong suit.

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