UR 1498
Communication sans actes

“I don’t want to play the native!”

Tourism, ethnology and organisation of social and symbolic relations in gentrified neighbourhoods of Eastern Paris
Conference of the Association of Social Anthropologist of the UK and Commonwealth (ASA), Thinking Through Tourism, 12 avril 2007, Grande-Bretagne

This paper presents the results of an ethnographical observation of a Parisian tourism association called Belleville Insolite. One of its activities (the “circuits découverte”) is a guided tour for people to discover “the authentic neighbourhoods of the Eastern Paris”. These neighbourhoods (the 10th, 11th, 12th, 19th and 20th districts), which are organised around suburban streets and former villages, have been undergoing a process of gentrifi cation for several years now. I will demonstrate how the organisation of these tours in these multicultural and multi-class urban spaces, participates in the emergence of social and symbolic relations based on “generalized ethnology” (J. Bazin) or “ethnographic communication” (G. Ciarcia). By this I mean that people who play a part in these situations use the classic “tools” and “objects” of ethnology to connect themselves with places and other people: discovery as a means to relate themselves to space and to others; authenticity as a specifi c object to be explored and as a source to produce a specifi c kind of urban player, the witness; and fi nally “culture”, something on which they agree and towards which they interrelate. Doing so, people, among whom the “muliculturals” (P. Simon) are the most active, behave alternately as ethnographer and as key-informant, as explorer and as indigenous, making these neighbourhoods a kind of ethnographical territory. Far from being a separate social fi eld, this way of organizing social and symbolic relationships extends beyond the tourist situations. In fact, it seems that ethnographical communication is a particularly effi cient means to arrange social class and inter-group relations in public spaces in places in the process of gentrification. Finally, the analysis I am proposing questions the role played, within ethnological communication, by the different urban professionals who observe these spaces and the way they do it: i.e. anthropologists, sociologists, journalists, etc.