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Indigenous culture: both malleable and valuable

Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development

ISSN: 2044-1266

Article publication date: 28 October 2011




The entry into tourism markets by international development practitioners aligns goals of economic development and cultural preservation in indigenous communities. The purpose of this paper is to look into ways that community‐level participation can simultaneously contribute to both economic and cultural sustainability.


It takes a qualitative interdisciplinary approach to the literature on cultural tourism and commodification to develop a discussion of the implication and the application of interrelated policy measures since the early 1990s. Analysis then proposes a set of key variables challenging the capacity of both policy makers and marginal indigenous entrepreneurs to achieve potential benefits.


Ideological tensions arise with the effort to balance the preservation of cultural integrity with the selling of marketable wares. The ongoing issues of market realities, political will, and tourism demographics create new questions that require further interdisciplinary research to develop an understanding that supports the long‐term sustainability of indigenous communities. A community‐based approach has potential to be very effective in negotiating the balance and undeniable trade‐offs between economic reward and cultural preservation.

Practical implications

Socio‐economic statistical data does not always exist for marginalized indigenous/ethnic minority communities that are not recognized by their own governments. This makes comparative case research and future monitoring very difficult to achieve. Also, existing discourse is currently dominated by non‐indigenous voices and Western tourism motivations, which need amelioration to better support the community‐based approach.


This paper provides policy makers, practitioners, researchers and indigenous communities with a multidisciplinary perspective on areas requiring further consideration and research. The analysis of current discourse when undertaken across disciplines confirms that policy directives cannot be broadly generalized.



Hill, L.L. (2011), "Indigenous culture: both malleable and valuable", Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 122-134.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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