Becoming a modern man: the role of imagination in identity construction and performance in a tourism resort in south India.
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Set in a beach resort in the south Indian state of Kerala, this thesis examines how the presence of international tourism is reflected in the identity construction of young Indian men. Using both their local, patriarchal setting and the new, global context provided by tourists, men make sense of their world between their own notions of tradition and modernity. Applying Arjun Appadurai’s concept of imagination, I argue that the tension that young men perceive between different scripts of life becomes most clearly manifested in their collective imagination of ‘modern’ Western women, who are compared in dichotomy against ‘traditional’ Indian women. Based on ethnographic research focusing particularly on the young men that pursue sexual relationships with female tourists, I interpret identity as a performance, visible through behaviour and dialogues, suited to the different social settings young men must traverse in their everyday life. Drawing on their imagination, young Indian men try to seduce Western women, both to achieve, and by emulating, a modern identity. But in reality, this identity is fragmented, torn between the different scripts of life produced by the traditional Indian life and the enclave of modernity generated by international tourism.