Haunted Headwaters: Ecotourism, Animism, and the Blurry Line Between Science and Spirits
1 Faculty of English Language Center, Chang Gung University, Taoyuan, Taiwan
2 Department of Tourism, Recreation, and Leisure Studies, National Dong Hwa University, Hualien, Taiwan
The highlanders of Ratanakiri, Cambodia believe that certain mountains cannot be hunted or logged because they are the abode of powerful spirits. They are convinced that mountain spirits will exact revenge on them in the form of serious injury or illness if they do not follow the animist behavioral etiquette regarding these sacred peaks. It may seem easy to dismiss these convictions as ancient superstitions, and many scientists do because biological explanations can explain the illnesses suffered in these remote locales: deep forests are home to more disease-carrying ticks, malaria-carrying mosquitoes, poisonous snakes, and dangerous microbes, parasites, and animals. However, scientific explanations do not disprove the animist beliefs; the illness are still happening, but for different reasons. In this sense, science proves the animist superstitions to be correct. We explore the blurry line between fact and fiction in the disappearing animist world of spirits, jungles, and highlander traditions in Ratanakiri, and also at how to maintain these ancient belief systems by teaching them to village youth and sharing them with ecotourists. A new type of ecotourism—what we call “Animistic Ecotourism”—might be the last chance to save what remains of highlander Animism.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2014
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.