Morality Discourses in Tourism: A Critical Look Through a Case Study of the Ring-Wearing Kayan

  • Nele Dewilde Independent researcher, Belgium
Keywords: Morality, Ethical travel, Kayan, Ethnic identity, Harmful cultural practices


Morality discourses have become an omnipresent language to describe, interpret and act in the tourism industry. However, these imposed moral judgements about what ‘proper’ tourism should be, can ironically reproduce the perceived immoral practice and consequently perpetuate power imbalances. This article will use a case-study of the Kayan whose women wear heavy brass rings around their neck, and are involved in the tourism industry in Thailand. The dominant moral discourse of being passive victims of their cultural practice waiting to be gazed at, will thereby be unpacked. By giving a voice to the Kayan and having a thorough look at the context, the complexity of their lives will be revealed. It will become clear that in their particular, sometimes even restraining situation, many Kayan are actually strategically using their ethnic identity to negotiate their positions to gain access to certain resources or resist more powerful forces.


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