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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Intangible Heritage and Tourism Development at the Tsodilo World Heritage Site

  • Author(s): Giraudo, Rachel Faye
  • Advisor(s): Conkey, Margaret W.
  • Graburn, Nelson H. H.
  • et al.

Through the case study of the Tsodilo World Heritage Site in Botswana, I investigate the relationship between heritage conservation and tourism development. This is done by analyzing what I argue are the opposing conservation aims of World Heritage status and the commodifying tendencies that this status encourages on cultural heritage through increased tourism. More specifically, "intangible heritage" (criterion vi of the World Heritage cultural listing criteria) is addressed as governments and NGOs in southern Africa are increasingly relying upon cultural heritage tourism to assist in the "development" of socially and economically marginalized populations. I discuss the transformation of local and national heritage sites into World Heritage sites through the processes of place making and heritage making, and I contend that heritage management plans for these sites do more than "manage," but rather accelerate cultural change and change in heritage values, especially for those sites designated for their intangible heritage.

In this dissertation, I also elaborate on issues of ethnicity and nationalism and women and development through an examination of the production of a heritage management plan at Tsodilo modeled on community-based natural resource management (CBNRM). Indeed, the significance of the tourism industry to Botswana's economy, coupled with the contentious relations that the government has with its ethnic minorities, foregrounds a critical examination of the politics of heritage and conservation in the country. Furthermore, due to Botswana's nationalist stance on identity politics as well as the globalizing processes of development, the gender roles of the country's ethnic minorities are being transformed as they progressively enter a market economy through their varied inductions into the tourism industry. As local communities living near Tsodilo are increasingly consigned to self-reliance through tourism development, I question whether commodification of the site's intangible heritage ultimately works against the conservation aims of World Heritage and, if so, in what specific ways. The case study of heritage and tourism at Tsodilo provides a window to looking at "development" in southern Africa, as well as how national narratives of inclusion and legitimacy produce a dilemma for the promotion of heritage tourism among Botswana's ethnic minorities.

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