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Abstract

This paper proposes an epistemological transition based on Edgar Morin's complexity paradigm to analyse authenticity in a complex tourism environment, avoiding fragmentation, and integrating relevant actors and relationships. The results show that storytelling is an important element of these tourism experiences, legitimising and unifying the authenticity of the experience and relating objects, social environment and individual experiences. The size of the tour groups and the rigidity of the itinerary were important elements for constructing authenticity. Tourists, service providers and government bodies all directly or indirectly participate as co-creators, making the perception of authenticity a constant negotiation between the elements of the experience and the actors involved in it.
Rethinking authenticity through complexity paradigm
Mariana Bueno de Andrade-Matos
a
,Greg Richards
b,
,Maria de Lourdes de Azevedo Barbosa
c
a
Universityof São Paulo, School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities, Rua Arlindo Béttio, 1000, São Paulo, SP 03828-000, Brazil
b
Breda University of Applied Sciences, Postbus 3917, 4800 DX Breda, The Netherlands and Tilburg University, The Netherlands
c
Federal University of Pernambuco, Rua Olímpio Tavares, 110, Recife, PE 52051-400, Brazil
article info abstract
Article history:
Received 9 November 2020
Received in revised form 23 December 2021
Accepted 27 December 2021
Available online xxxx
Handling editor: Jillian M. Rickly, PhD
This paper proposes an epistemological transition based on Edgar Morin's complexity paradigm
to analyse authenticity in a complex tourism environment, avoiding fragmentation, and inte-
grating relevant actors and relationships. The results show that storytelling is an important el-
ement of these tourism experiences, legitimising and unifying the authenticity of the
experience and relating objects, social environment and individual experiences. The size of
the tour groups and the rigidity of the itinerary were important elements for constructing au-
thenticity. Tourists, service providers and government bodies all directly or indirectly partici-
pate as co-creators, making the perception of authenticity a constant negotiation between
the elements of the experience and the actors involved in it.
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY
license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords:
Authenticity
Complexity Paradigm
Tourism Exp eriences
Cacao Farms
Cacao Tourism
Chocolate Tourism
Introduction
The concept of authenticity is notoriously difcult and has spawned many different conceptualizations (Brown, 2013;Cohen &
Cohen, 2012;Kim & Jamal, 2007;Kirillova & Lehto, 2015;Knudsen et al., 2016;Lau, 2010;Reisinger & Steiner, 2006;Rickly-Boyd,
2012;Wang, 1999). There is also little consensus on which approach might be best suited to analysing tourism experiences.
Reisinger and Steiner (2006) propose abandoning objective authenticity, whereas Lau (2010) states that only the objective exists.
Other authors have sought to group some types of authenticity to understand the concept holistically, such as Chhabra's (2010)
concept of authenticity being negotiatedas a tradeoff between objective authenticity and constructivist authenticity. Attempts to
combine different types of authenticity can be challenged, however, because of epistemological problems with the paradigms and
modes of thinking on which they are based (Steiner & Reisinger, 2006). Existential authenticity, for example, is based on
Heidegger's existentialism and being oneselfin terms of experiences, while constructivist authenticity analyses the relationships
of the observer to objects, social networks and cultural structures. More recent studies have attempted to resolve these differing
worldviews, such as Cohen-Aharoni's (2017) concept of Potential-Based Authenticity, based on future events and authentic ob-
jects; and Vidon et al.'s (2018) discussion of postmodern authenticity. Rickly-Boyd (2012) argued that object, place, and experi-
ence must be united in the framework of authenticity, producing a relational conceptualization.
Annals of Tourism Research 92 (2022) 103348
Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: buenomariana@usp.br (M.B. de Andrade-Matos), richards.g@buas.nl (G. Richards).
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annals.2021.103348
0160-7383/© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Annals of Tourism Research
journal homepage: https://www.journals.elsevier.com/annals-of-
tourism-research
The current paper also recognizes the need to combine object, place and experience in the same framework. We follow Rickly-
Boyd's (2012) relational approach, which we believe gives space for a complex approach to authenticity and has the potential to
reduce fragmentation by considering different aspects of authenticity simultaneously. We argue that the object, the social environ-
ment, the individual experiences of the tourists and the environment in which the tourism experience happens must be
interpreted in a more holistic way, as a social practice, integrating actor and context (Bargeman & Richards, 2020). We suggest
that the complexity paradigm can provide the basis for combining the elements of existing theories and generating new contex-
tualized questions about the nature of authenticity.
Complexity theory emerged at the beginning of the 1900s, championed by scientists involved in the natural sciences. Ludwig
von Bertalanffy (1968) was the rst author to reject the Cartesian way of seeing the world and he later criticized the fragmenta-
tion of biological thinking. Ilya Prigogine (1980) developed key concepts to complexity theory, including the indeterminism in
nonlinear systems and the concept of self-organization (when order arises from the dynamic among parts in a disorganized sys-
tem), and Henri Atlan (1979) extended the latter concept through crisisand noisescontributing signicantly to complexity the-
ory development. Edgar Morin developed and applied complexity theory to the human and social sciences and his thinking
arguably has the most to contribute to authenticity theory in tourism. Morin (2011) states that to better understand the modern
world, hyper-simplied thought that reduces reality to small fragments must be abandoned, since it is unable to deal with
complex systems. For Morin (2011) complexity does not see human beings as noise(as in positivism), nor does it ignore the
object and look only at the person separated from their context (as in humanism). It considers, instead, the interdependence of
(eco)systems.
The complexity paradigm enables us to combine elements of different approaches to the authenticity of tourist experiences,
avoiding the error of epistemological incoherence identied by ReisingerandSteiner(2006). By analysing the tourism environ-
ment as an open system and avoiding epistemological fragmentations and limitations, as the complexity paradigm allows, we
can connect many diverse elements, including: (1) The physical aspects (Rickly-Boyd, 2012;Rickly-Boyd, 2013), since without
them tourist activity does not happen. (2) The social and environmental aspects of the activity (Belhassen et al., 2008;
Buchmann et al., 2010) (3) The individual aspects of each tourist, as well as their actions in the locality (Kontogeorgopoulos,
2003). (4) The importance of hosts (Zhou et al., 2015). (5) Political and governmental issues. (6) Situational issues (Mkono,
2012), and any particularities that may be important for the analysis of authenticity in that locality (Grunewald, 2004). The adop-
tion of complex thinking as an epistemological basis is an alternative line of reasoning that provides a relevant and innovative
understanding of authenticity.
We aim to advance the debate, starting with a search for the understanding of authenticity in tourism experiences and
adopting a research approach that unites established theories, but which also permits new reections. Considering phenom-
ena as open systems that inuence and are inuenced endlessly by their constituent parts, the complexity paradigm unites
established theories and permits new reections that are uid over time rather than the end-states considered by dyadic
approaches to authenticity. Complexity theory also allows for the possibility that different and even contradictory conditions
can produce the same outcome. Recent empirical work by Phung et al. (2019) in ethnic themed settings indicates that com-
plexity theory facilitates the integration of objective, constructive, and postmodern concepts of authenticity. By adopting a
complexity theory stance on authenticity, the question becomes not whether an objective, constructive or (post)postmodern
perspective on authenticity provides better descriptions of tourist behavior, but rather how these perspectives together can
provide more holistic and powerful explanations.
Therefore, our paper aims to answer the research question: How can the complexity paradigm improve our under-
standing of authenticity in tourism experiences?. To address this question, we apply the complexity paradigm to analyse
a multiple case study covering three cacao farms in Northeast Brazil. In 1989, the cacao trees of Bahia state, once one of
the world's leading cacao production areas, were infected with the devastating fungus vassoura de bruxa (witch's
broom,Crinipellis Perniciosa). Farmers lost much of their plantations and were long unable to produce cacao for
industrial purposes. They began searching for alternative sources of income, including converting the farms into tourist
attractions. Our study centres on three cacao farms with different social, cultural and historical contexts, which illustrate
the complex interweaving of situational, contextual and actor-related factors in the production and consumption of
authenticity.
Theoretical framework
In building our theoretical framework we consider two main areas: the basis of the complexity paradigm and how complexity
theory can contribute to the study of authenticity.
Circumventing fragmentation of authenticity through complexity
The complexity paradigm is based on open systems, which are composed and inuenced by an undened and changeable
number of elements. Morin (2011) argues that the absolute view of subjects (as in humanism, which considers humans above
all objects) and/or objects (as in positivism, which considers subjects as noise) leaves a huge rift of knowledge between them.
Analysing subjects or objects in isolation contributes to a fragmented and limited understanding of the inuences and relations
that bind them. But the recognition of this abyssbetween subject and object and the recognition of their inseparability, opens
possibilities for new knowledge, and thus progress in science.
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We do not see Morin's Complexity Theory (2011) as the only possible paradigm, or view it as superior to other models. It is
rather a means to aggregate previous knowledge, with fewer limitations, giving the possibility of observing the whole within the
immensity of factors in which the realities are inserted. Morin (2011) states that this new way of looking at phenomena does not
intend to destroy classical paradigms or offer a monistic version of the truth. Rather it provides an alternative that is antagonistic,
contradictory and complementary with a broader vision of reality, that contributes to the understanding of its complex formation.
Therefore, in Morin's (2011) approach, classic theories lose their absolute character, and they cease to be reductionist. How-
ever, it is important to emphasize that the goal is not holism, or an attempt to aggregate the totality. What is sought is the com-
plex unity, helping to unify analytical/reductionist thinking to globality, in a dialectic that is capable of understanding that the part
contributes to the whole and that the whole exists only because of its parts.
We adopt the complexity paradigm as a means of understanding the authenticity of tourism experiences, seeking to minimize
the fragmentation of many previous approaches, in order to provide a more unied vision. Morin's theory is an open system that
allows the coexistence of different ways of thinking, which all contribute to the whole. This whole is complexity, as Morin argues:
Complexity arises, it is true, where simplifying thinking fails, but it integrates everything that puts order, clarity, distinction,
precision of knowledge. While simplistic thinking disintegrates the complexity of the real, complex thinking integrates as much
as possible the simplifying modes of thinking, but refuses the mutilating, reductive, unidimensional, and at last dazzling con-
sequences of a simplication that considers reection of what is real in reality
[(Morin, 2011,p.6)]
We believe that adopting the complexity paradigm as our epistemological basis not only helps to unify the concept of authen-
ticity without philosophical incoherencies, but it also highlights and integrates different and new aspects of authenticity.
How complexity contributes to authenticity
Using the complexity paradigm, therefore, we can overcome some of the limitations of unidimensional or simplistic views of
authenticity. The complexity paradigm enables us to understand phenomena in a singular way by considering the greatest possi-
ble complexity, and not just considering a single sphere or actor (object or social or consumer environment, for example). There-
fore, the complexity paradigm allows us to combine the elements of the experiences as they are in the real world: altogether. We
can combine and unite the knowledge and concepts developed from different epistemological foundations, including positivism,
constructivism or existentialism without incurring scientic incoherencies.
From the moment one abandons narrow concepts such as existential authenticityor objective authenticity, one can conceive
of authenticity in a more holistic way with individuals, objects, social environment, destination management and other elements
being equally and simultaneously important (as they are in reality). It is then possible to recognize that between the elements of
the tourist experience, subject and object, there are many possibilities for the analysis and evolution of knowledge in the area, as
some scholars of authenticity in tourism have already argued (Grunewald, 2004,Belhassen & Caton, 2006;Chhabra, 2010;Mkono,
2012). Furthermore, these elements build and establish relationships that differently inuence the complexity of authenticity.
Complexity and tourism experiential authenticity
Cohen (1979) argues that all actors are important for the authenticity of tourist experiences, which links to Lugosi's (2016)
application of Actor Network Theory to authentication. Lugosi suggests that authentication is a process, in which power is distrib-
uted and exercised by multiple actors in socio-technological tourism arrangements. However, complexity approaches also
emphasize the non-linearity of change in systems, and their indeterminant nature. Being an open system, complexity integrates
inuences from different realities and elements, resulting in a constant negotiation between actors and elements to build
authenticity.
Besides the actors, the social environment is also fundamental, since the experience of one tourist inuences and is inuenced
by the experience of the others, according to the theory of experiential marketing (Petr, 2002). Likewise, McIntosh and Prentice
(1999) emphasize that personal relationships and emotions during the experience inuence the perception of authenticity, in-
cluding the authenticity of the physical elements of the place.
We argue that neither the objective authenticity of artifacts, physical attractions or objects, nor the social structures envisaged
by constructivism, nor the networked actions and characteristics of actors (be they the local population or tourists) alone are suf-
cient, as they all need one another to exist and form the wholeof experience. We therefore need to understand how tourist
experiences can inuence the perceptions and experiences of individuals: government initiatives, marketing efforts, the construc-
tion of the tourism destination brands (which generate expectations that inuence the experience) and situational and contextual
issues of each experience. For example, marketing efforts are also important for the tourist perception of authenticity and the pre-
trip image they have, which then inuences their experience (Andrade-Matos & Barbosa, 2018;Steiner & Reisinger, 2006)and
subsequent word of mouth about the destination (Chhabra et al., 2003).
In addition to place-related factors (branding, marketing and government) which promote, nance and support many activi-
ties linked to tourism, other situational issues of the locality (having more or less government intervention, being isolated geogra-
phically, etc.) or individuals involved in the experience (who may suffer an accident, or have a special relationship with the
locality, may miss a ight, etc.) may emerge (Grunewald, 2004;Mkono, 2012) during the process of experience. Thus, according
3
to Morin's theory (2011), a system of open interaction between characteristics and situations is proposed. In this mode of thinking
there is a search for the comprehension of the whole, but also of the parts that form it, to better understand the importance, the
relationships and the conception of authenticity in the experience of tourism.
The complexity paradigm guiding this study adopts an integrative perspective contrary to the fragmentation of knowledge. In
this sense, we sought to better understand multiple realities through the guiding principles of the complexity paradigm (Morin,
2011). With this positioning, we adopted a qualitative approach to better understand the meaning of the authenticity of tourist
experiences - with the least possible distance from the natural situation (Merriam, 1998, p.5).
Methodology
The instrumental multiple case study proposed by Stake (1995, 2006) was deemed an appropriate methodological strategy for
this study and for the complexity paradigm, as it permits analysis of the context and, therefore, make reections beyond the cases.
Stake (2006) explains that multiple case study is a special effort to understand a reality composed of several parts, members or
cases, consistent with a complex understanding of phenomena. Also, the instrumental perspective was adopted since our goal was
to understand not only the cases but a greater reality that involves the cases, which is another characteristic of Stake's (1995)
proposition. Therefore, we analyzed not only the selected farms and their production of authenticity, but also their relationship
to the context of cacao as an industry, a social reality and a historical process. The multiple case study allowed us to combine spe-
cic and general views on the internal and external phenomena that inuence tourist experiences, seeking to understand the
complexity of each case as well as the context as a whole. Our qualitative research on the three farms brought us close to the
parts of this open system, understanding what is relevant and specic about the cacao farms, as well as understanding and having
access to the context (or as Stake (2006) called it, the quintain). This combination meant we could access more complex data
and analyse a greater range of elements. The case studies were focused on the specic tourist experiences of each farm, with spe-
cial attention being paid to social and political inuences and other contexts in which each case is embedded, a fundamental pro-
cess for understanding complexity (Morin, 2011).
In terms of positionality, it is important to state that the research team does not come from the eld research area, or have
personal links to cacao production, but it includes two Brazilians from cities close to the locus studied, one of them dedicated
to cacao and chocolate tourism studies.
Research procedures
The data collection for the three cases and the context took place between July 2016 and March 2017. The eldwork was de-
veloped with observations and interviews in each stage, an intense experience that allowed us to gain empathy with the
researched object and subjects resulting in a rich body of data.
On entering the eld, we started with a broad range of approaches to authenticity and concepts drawn from its relationality,
with the intention of observing these elements without being selective or reductionist, leaving space for the emergence of new
ideas and categories. Morin (2011) suggests that opposites (antagonistic elements) can be complementary and these were em-
phasized in our observational framework. We wanted to observe authenticity without removing any of its complex context, and
in doing so we concentrated on observing the relationships between actors, elements, objects and institutions.
The three complexity paradigm principles suggested by Morin (2015) were used to develop the analysis. These are the dialog-
ical principle, organizational recursiveness and the hologrammatic principle. The dialogic principle states that the association of
two terms can be both complementary and antagonistic, for example, order and disorder. Therefore, we were concerned to iden-
tify inconsistencies and antagonistic issues that could be complementary and explain previously unobserved relationships. The
principle of organizational recursiveness explains that products and effects are both causes and producers of the effect. For exam-
ple, individuals form society, but then society forms individuals. Finally, the hologrammatic principle has its origin in physics, and
suggests that a problem must not be reduced to its constituent parts, but also that the parts are needed to understand the whole.
These principles structured our observations of the environment, the local culture and its different elements, the inuence of
the social environment on tourist experiences, the context provided by each farm for these experiences and their impact on the
whole, including contradictions and disorders as well. We seek to understand as many aspects of the complex tourist system as
possible, to analyse the production and consumption of authenticity in context of tourism in the cacao farms.
Firstly, the researchers familiarized themselves with the cacao region in which the three farms are located through exploratory
research, in an attempt to understand the context of the region. Interviews were conducted with individuals in the cacao sector,
eight of them with entrepreneurs and public sector tourism and cacao actors in Bahia. Four visits were also made to other farms
in the region, and observations were made in these environments and cacao practices in these farms, complemented by inter-
views with farmers. The researchers also participated in ve events related to the theme of chocolate and cacao (from July
2016 until December 2017), conducting observations and informal interviews with participants to enrich the data.
A total of 18 formal interviews were conducted in Portuguese with owners and employees of each farm (labelled Blue, Yellow
and Pink Farms, to preserve anonymity). Observations were also made of the farm environments and the behavior of individual
tourists and large and small tourist groups. This yielded a total of 14 observations aiming to identify behaviors and reactions dur-
ing experiences with cacao tourism.
The observations of the tours and farm routine were developed during the days we stayed in the farms. We participated in the
activities of the farms (including touristic and non-tourist activities), recorded the dialogues, took pictures, developed informal
4
interviews with tourists and group guides (in Portuguese and in English) and we also wrote a diary with the rst understandings
and describing specicsituations.
The data collection related to the farms and the context, provided 57 h of audio recordings, which when transcribed produced
a robust and rich corpus (Bauer & Gaskell, 2011) of written text. We also collected a second corpus consisting of 1750 images
(mainly photographs) and a third corpus consisting of eld notes. These three distinct corpora made it possible to triangulate
(Denzin, 2009) the data to assist validation, with different data sources, produced at different times, places or with different
people.
We conducted thematic analysis of the data (Braun & Clarke, 2006) and, based on the emerging themes, we were able to com-
pare and contrast the data collected from each case and the context (Stake, 1995). We followed Morin's suggestion of articulating
without homogenizing, respecting the diversity of the data without reducing it to a pure and simple catalogue of characterizations
(Morin, 2011). It is important to emphasize that for Morin (2011) complexity is the challenge, not the answer, so we have to
identify and accept the reduction of data, while trying to better understand the context and the relationships between the
parts and the whole. With the themes and patterns established with the textual information emerging from the thematic analysis,
we triangulated these with the data from the images and, in some cases, with the analysis of the physical evidence from the
farms, to illustrate and support our results.
The research context and the case areas
Bahia is a state located in Northeast Brazil, of which the southern part has been involved in cacao production since the mid-
20th century, when cacao trees were brought from the Amazon. Initially, climate, vegetation and soil contributed to a successful
introduction. But following the devastation caused by the fungus Crinipellis Perniciosa (also called Vassoura de Bruxa or witch's
broom) some farms launched tourism activities to provide new income streams.
Three Bahia cacao farms studied were intentionally selected, because they offered a minimally structured and cacao-related
tourist experience. They were the rst three farms to develop tourism experiences in the region, and they are all different: one
farm still actively produces cacao; another is recognized by the local community as a touristic farm; and the third is the only
one to feature the chocolate production process in the tour. These choices provided a rich comparative analysis, offering a better
understanding of the environment in which the farms operate, the regional context and the different actors (organizations and
people) that interact in this system (Stake, 2006).
Public sector and destination views of cacao tourism in Bahia
In the exploratory phase of the research, we visited the city of Ilhéus (the major city of the cacao region of Bahia), as well as
cacao farms to better understand the general context of the research environment. This visit was structured based on information
given by the marketing director of SEBRAE - the Brazilian Support Service for Micro and Small Companies.
From this planning, we visited farms and tourism attractions, interviewed farmers, employees and workers. It was observed
that cacao cultivation in the region is labor intensive, often involving an intertwining between cacao production and the personal
and family life of the farm owners and workers.
To obtain a more focused analysis of the tourism sector and have access to the context, we interviewed the tourism agency
owner ofcially responsible for sales and operations of the Costa do Cacau tourism region, which has been operating since
2004. She conrmed that sun and seatourism has been consolidated in the region, mainly because Ilhéus airport allows tourists
easy access to beaches and resorts on the south coast of Bahia (particularly Itacaré and Barra Grande) and that some of these
beach tourists buy visitation packages to cacao and chocolate farms.
Fig. 1. Tourists interact with the cow at Blue Farm.
Source: Authors (2017).
5
In order to understand the perspective of tourist organizations, we interviewed the President of the Costa do Cacau Convention
and Visitors Bureau, a businessman who also organizes the Ilhéus Chocolate Festival. According to him, after the witch's broom
crisis, only a few farmers saw chocolate production and cacao tourism as an economic alternative, which, for him, explains the
lack of preparation and quality of some of the tourism experiences offered. To stimulate a greater tourist ow with a focus on
cacao, he indicated the need to create more standardized and mass market products. We could observe from this point that he
believes in a kind of tourism that may not be concerned with authenticity. Interviews with the local authorities (leaders of Con-
vention Bureau, the Secretary of Tourism and the Vice-Mayor) indicated that this understanding is driving the public policies in
the region.
To understand the vision of the public authorities, at the suggestion of the State of Bahia Secretary of Tourism, we participated
in the launch event of the 2017 calendar of touristic promotion of BAHIATURSA (Tourism promotion body for the State of Bahia),
in Ilhéus. The manager indicated that the public sector seeks the participation of all tourism stakeholders and is committed to in-
vest in the development of cacao tourism in the region of Ilhéus. However, he warned that the local entrepreneurs would also
need to invest in infrastructure and product development. We noted that there were no cacao farmers at the event, which
may demonstrate a lack of articulation in this cacao/chocolate tourism chain or a lack of trust in the government's promises.
But there was no participation of the farmers in this opportunity to debate.
To gain other public sector perspectives we also interviewed the Vice-Mayor of the city of Ilhéus. He observed that tourism on
cacao farms has emerged as an alternative for the economic survival of farms; he also indicated that there is a season of interna-
tional cruises that pass through Ilhéus, although it is difcult for the farms to deal with large numbers of tourists. One important
point that emerged from the Vice-Mayors discourse was his argument that the citizens of Ilhéus do not value the history of cacao
and the region, which can impact on the context of the development of tourism in the farms. Although he perceived this as a
problem, he did not present any public policy solutions to improve the tourism in cacao areas.
The farms
The Blue farm is located on the Chocolate Road thematic route. The farm produces commodity cacao, and cacao processing is
conducted as part of the normal activities, not staged for tourists. The tour starts with the story of the farm and the personalities
linked to it; progressing along the old farm road to the cacao plantation. Here visitors can taste the fruit, see the processes of
planting and harvesting, and hear the history of the farm. At the end of the visit a cacao juice is served. This general sequence
is adapted depending on the interests and questions of tourists.
The Yellow farm was purchased by the current owners in the 1990s, who intended to reside in the house. The owners do not
nurture traditional memories of cacao because they have no ties to the culture of the region, and they do not want to be associ-
ated with the colonel culture. Historically, the owners of the farms were known as Colonels, in reference to the considerable po-
litical, economic and social power they exercised through labor exploitation and authoritarianism. Instead, the new owners shifted
from commodity production of cacao to making ne chocolate, which they saw as more attractive for tourists. The visit to the
house is guided by the owner, who talks about chocolate production in the region. The visit to the plantation is guided by a for-
mer resident of the farm, who explains about the cacao and the witch's broom, and leads a tasting of the freshly harvested cacao.
The visit passes the cacao fermentation and drying stations and nishes with a tasting of chocolates and cacao products prepared
by the owner, which are also sold as souvenirs.
The Pink farm is a historic farmhouse, owned by a foreigner who restored the house and now resides in it. It was adapted for
touristic use in 2011, offering daily tours, meals and accommodation. The tour starts with the cacao seedling nursery and con-
tinues through the plantation. Along the trail there are information signs (in Portuguese and English) indicating areas of interest,
and then tourists watch a demonstration on crop and cacao transportation and visit the fermentation boxes and drying deck. Vis-
itors progress to the chocolate factory and can taste the cacao honey, before being directed to the main house. Here a small mu-
seum presents the colonel's old furniture and lifestyle. The Pink Farm has relatively standardized services, and all tours are given
by the grandson of the former colonel of the farm.
The three case study farms present very different contexts in relation to cacao production and culture, as presented in Table 1.
The Blue Farm is the only one producing cacao as a commodity crop, with no processing activity. The Yellow Farm does not pro-
duce cacao but makes its own chocolate (with external help). The foreign owner of the Pink Farm has developed the most exten-
sive tourist facilities, storytelling and chocolate production, but it is the most removed from the original cacao growing.
Table 1
Main characteristics of the farms.
Elements of the experience Blue farm Yellow farm Pink farm
Center of the experience Colonel New history of cacao Colonel/chocolate
Cacao production Commodity production No production Little production
Owner Is centered in the experience Important Not present
Relationship between tourists
and service providers
Not standardized Not standardized Changes when owner is present
Flexibility of the itinerary Yes Yes No
Physical elements Important to tourists' experiences and to the
productivity of the farm
Are important and adapted to
tourism activity
Are very important to the tourist
activity, including a museum
6
The following section compares the different farms and how these relate to the production and consumption of authenticity, as
well as the broader cacao and tourism contexts.
Cross-case and context ndings
The context inuences and is inuenced by the farms, that have products and specic features that differ from each other. The
political and economic initiatives inuence and are also inuenced by the relationships among actors. This section is presented
based on the themes emerging from the analysis.
We identied a total of nine major themes from our analysis. The rst ve themes link closely with the existing litera-
ture, namely (theme 1) External contextual inuences (government, industry, associations); (theme 2) External inuences
from tourists' previous experiences (destination image; education, visitor information, previous experiences; expectations);
(theme 3) Tourist involvement in the experience; (theme 4) Social Environment (other tourists, local population; service
providers); (theme 5) Physical aspects. Other aspects that seem more specic to our analysis include the (theme 6) situa-
tional elements, such as an interaction of an animal, a crisis, or a climate change. The visitor group size (theme 7) also
emerged as an important inuence on the visitor experience; which was also shaped by the rigidity of the itinerary
(theme 8). Finally, storytelling (theme 9) was conrmed as a device that linked the different elements of the visit as well
as connecting each farm and related actors to the broader context. The following discussion traces the interrelationships
and interdependencies of these different themes.
Theme 1: external contextual inuences
External actors such as government, industry and associations, strongly inuence the experience. The issues of public manage-
ment of the destination, which involve promotion, interactions with and between associations and the relationship between local
tourism businesses, also affect the experience as they often determine the prole of the consumer who arrives and the size of the
groups undertaking the visits. These aspects inuence the experience of each individual tourist (theme 2) and also the service
providers' experience (theme 4). Previous visits to the destination and the image a consumer has of the farm, for instance, are
governmental and marketing issues that affect the experience before the arrival of the tourist, creating expectations that inuence
the perception of the experience (Andrade-Matos & Barbosa, 2018).
One example is the inuence that the cruise company and the tourism agency have on the perception of a group of tourists
visiting the yellow farm. One tourist complained about the lack of information on the Farm tour:
The tour was not so wellsold by the company, I was expecting a video of a cacao production, seeing the forest from a pier, not a
trail with risks like this
[(Female Tourist, YGT3, February 21, 2017)]
But the lack of information was experienced positively by another tourist, who commented enthusiastically:
This is fantastic, I was not expecting to enter a plantation!
[(Female Tourist, YGT3, February 21, 2017)]
Both were part of the same group of elderly tourists coming from a cruise ship making an excursion to the city of Ilheus. They
bought the tour on the ship and arrived at the farm after heavy rainfall, so the trail was wet and slippery, which was experienced
by some tourists as unsafe. Both tourists interpreted the same experience in different ways, even though the same tourism supply
factors inuence their expectations and interpretations (themes 2 and 3). This underlines the different levels of involvement and
understanding of authenticity each tourist is open to (Zatori et al., 2018).
Themes 2 and 3: the tourists
Theme 2 relates to previous tourist experiences. The data indicated that tourists themselves bring to the site different
educational backgrounds, knowledge and previous tourism experiences. These factors inuenced the level of tourist in-
volvement in the experiences (theme 3), for example because greater prior knowledge led to deeper questions being
posed by visitors when interacting with service providers. These interactions are also interpreted and reected upon by vis-
itors during and after the experience, stimulating a reexive and cognitive internal process that can last a long time, espe-
cially when what remains of the experience are only memories and objects imbued with experience memories (souvenirs
and photos, for instance). So the inuence of the tourist repertoire inuence the experience and the post experience phase.
For example, one tourist visiting the yellow farm had an interest in fruit farms, which make his experience different from
other tourists.
Well, I've enjoyed it immensely because I'm quite interested in growing fruits and everything, we work with it. Compared to
other great excursions we had in this trip I still think this is a very good one
[(Male tourist, YGT3, February 21, 2017)]
7
Analysing tourist involvement (theme 3) through the Organizational Recursiveness principle, we also see that individual
tourist experience is a product of, but also a cause of the experience of a group. Each tourist inuences and is inuenced by
other tourists and by the size of the group (theme 7) and by the characteristics and behavior of the people in the group
(theme 4).
Themes 4, 5 and 6: inside the experience
Theme 4 relates to the social environment, theme 5 to physical aspects and theme 6 to situational elements. In terms of
the broader social environment (theme 4), factors include the activities of the local population and service providers. Our
research corroborates to literature (Zhou et al., 2015) claiming that service providers have a fundamental role in building
experiences together with tourists. They also bring their emotions and are primarily responsible for building relationships,
telling stories and co-creating experiences with tourists. They also form part of the local community, which also operates in
the tourism environment, providing a link between the locality and tourists. The experience, when it is pleasant and per-
ceived as authentic by community members, enables them to build more natural and positive relationships with the tour-
ists. When service providers are uncomfortable or are restrained, as we observed at the Pink Farm, the relationships
between tourist and provider are compromised, reducing the naturalness of the experience, and therefore the perceived
authenticity.
Physical evidence (theme 5) was fundamental to the authenticity of the experience. In this research, we observed that it is
difcult to discuss authenticity without a physical aspect being involved, since a touristic experience takes place in a physical lo-
cation which the tourist moves to. This destination has relevant physical characteristics that compose the experiential environ-
ment. But isolated objects are not sufcient to create authenticity, they need to be attributed meaning by both service
providers and tourists.
The situational aspects of the experience (theme 6) are beyond the control of the producers, and often inject unexpected el-
ements of authenticity. In the Blue farm there was a situation when the dogs started to interact with the tourists, and this was
perceived as a particularly authentic and fun situation by the group. The host started to talk to the dogs as if they were children,
which immediately engaged and animated the tourist group. Moments like this cannot be easily planned, as the animal actors in-
teract through instinct, rather than scripting. Other unexpected encounters with cows also occurred on the blue farm and contrib-
uted to various stories narrated to the group (theme 9) (Fig. 1). The animals represented the inclusion and participation in a rural
experience for some tourists, adding weight to the moment. Other natural phenomena can also intervene: on the Yellow farm,
heavy overnight rain negatively inuenced the experience of a group of tourists, who vented frustration with the poor condition
of the trail.
Other many specic and non-controllable situations are possible during any tourism experiences, that can emerge and contrib-
ute to or reduce perceived authenticity.
Themes 7, 8 and 9: the tour
Group size (theme 7), the rigidity of itinerary (theme 8) and storytelling (theme 9) were also important drivers of authentic-
ity. Group size seemed to inuence the authenticity of experiences in all the farms in terms of the naturalness of the relationships
established between the actors present (visitors, local population and service providers). Group size inuences the depth and level
of involvement and information that is provided. Smaller groups are more active, have more intimate experiences and have con-
versations that are more informal and friendly. Large groups, on the other hand, are characterised by the standardization of the
service, by the guides' attempts to control the group and by greater dispersion. A tourist at the Blue farm said that they were
more comfortable when the group is smaller; and the guide at the same farm said he prefers it when the group is smaller, be-
cause small groups are easier to control and they pay more attention to the explanations, allowing him to enrich his stories
about the farm. In small groups some tourists got the opportunity to see old family pictures, have deeper conversations about
the family history and to interact longer at the Blue Farm. One tourist said she prefers small groups that allow people to generate
authenticity through sharing stories and experiences, rather than just taking pictures.
Another characteristic of authenticity construction in an experience is how rigidly the itinerary is planned and communicated
by the service providers (theme 8). Making it more exible, responding to the demands of tourists, can allow more natural in-
volvement and relationship building among the actors (which relates to themes 3 and 4). At the Blue farm, for example, the
guide changes the visit itinerary based on questions asked by visitors. The route and the conversations generated often take
more time than expected, which is interpreted by the tourists in a positive way, allowing them to forget they were on a tour.
Man, I forgot I was doing a tour, I was talking there as a friend (laughs)
[(Male Tourist, XGT3, January 28, 2017)]
On the Pink farm, which has a less exible owner, the manager interviewed said that things work better when he is not there:
In this company, it is better when the owner is not here. We control it better when he is not here. Because thereare things, he
doesn't understand () I know how to deal with people and he doesn't know how to do it
[(ZGerente, 2 March 2017)]
8
In this case, the owner is not Brazilian, so according to the Brazilian manager, he does not understand some aspects of the re-
lationships among tourists, service providers and the manager. We also observed that the guide and the workers were more com-
fortable with the tourists and us (researchers) when the owner was not present.
Our research suggests that stories are fundamental in giving meaning to the different parts of the system and to fashioning
these into a whole. There is no such a thing as an experience purely based on objects (theme 5) separated from their social en-
vironment and the people involved (locals, service providers, tourists and so on) (themes 3 and 4). Our analysis of farm experi-
ences indicates that the stories confer authenticity and also mediate and unite the relationships between the people and objects
involved (theme 9). Chronis (2005) states the storytelling contributes to the co-production of texts between producers and con-
sumers. In this study, we perceive storytelling as producing authenticity linked to a wider range of elements not only people,
but objects and animals too in an open system. On the Pink Farm, a piece of furniture (Fig. 2) was just an object in a room
until the guide told visitors its story and its relationship with the history of the house, allowing them to identify and relate
with the actors and objects involved. In this situation, the guide told the visitors the story of the furniture and that it was a
piece of antique noble wood that was used by the Colonel. A woman approached the furniture and knocked on it, ensuring
that the sound of the wood authenticated the story, saying it is true, indeed(T5 ZGT1, February 26th 2017).
After the lady did this, a lot of other tourists started to knock on the wood to test it. We observed that tourists wanted to ver-
ify the physical authenticity of the furniture for themselves, which then served to verify the story. This incident underlines the
relationship of the physical object and the story, but also the capacity of tourists to inuence the experience of others, reecting
the social production of authenticity among visitors and, at the same time, an individual desire to repeat the action and to phys-
ically feel the wood themselves. Therefore, in addition to a physical and tangible aspect of the experience, visitors interacted in-
dividually and socially to verify and co-create the experience. So themes 9 and 4 interacted to produce individual (theme
3) experiences of authenticity in conjunction with an object (theme 5).
These relationships mediated and facilitated by storytelling can involve tourists and their curiosity (3), the local commu-
nity (who are involved as service providers in the tourist experience), the owners (4), physical aspects (5), the government
and all the actors in the experience (1). Therefore, storytelling (9) becomes a major link between all actors, objects and the
environment in the process of building authenticity. Analysing the stories through Morin's Hologrammatic principle reveals
that they are present in different aspects of the experiences, as well as uniting the different actors, objects and places. One
story is relevant to the whole, and the whole of the experience needs the telling of stories to exist. The stories can contribute
to the understanding of the culture, which contextualizes the locals, the service providers and the farms, and increases the
engagement of the tourists. Therefore, the stories are parts that unite and construct the whole experience and can link the
actors to the cultural context.
Discussion: the complex relationships of authenticity
In each case analyzed we have seen that the production of authenticity depends on a unique blend of tourist characteristics,
interests, knowledge and values, as well as complex relationships between people and objects, the natural environment, other
tourists, locals, service providers, the destination itself and its image, the political climate, and links with the tourism trade.
Many of these aspects have already been studied separately by other authors, but they are rarely considered simultaneously as
part of a complex system. Most research also refers to a specic moment, or a specic system state, whereas complexity theory
Fig. 2. Furniture from Colonel's collection.
Source: Authors (2017).
9
considers open systems that inuence and are inuenced endlessly by their constituent parts. This also suggests the need for
more open-ended and longitudinal research strategies, such as those adopted in the current study.
Employing the Dialogical principle indicates that culture can unite antagonistic and complementary features to create new un-
derstandings. Culture can be at the same time generate disorder and provide ways of organizing the experience, for example
through improvisation. At the Blue Farm, for instance, the questions posed by the tourists instigated the service providers to im-
provise (changing the script, taking a different itinerary), creating an informal and non-linear experience environment (disorga-
nized), while at the same time re-organizing the information through improvisation and proactive response to the visitors. The
antagonism encapsulated in this disorganized organizationarguably provides an authentic entry point to Brazilian culture and,
in this case, it was perceived by tourists as a welcoming behavior (themes 4 and 3).
The principle of Organizational Recursiveness is illustrated by the fact that no farmers participated in the launch event of the
2017 calendar of touristic promotion of BAHIATURSA. We see this as a cultural problem that can be the product and the cause of
the phenomenon itself. The farmers boycotted the launch to avoid giving support to public policies, but by withholding their par-
ticipation they also instigated the failure of these very policies (themes 1 and 4), conrming their initial skepticism. The lack of
participation, therefore, is a product but also can be the cause of the lack of success of the initiative.
Adopting the Complexity Paradigm allows the researcher to combine the knowledge developed based on the classical para-
digms - such as positivism, constructivism and existentialism while defragmenting the knowledge developed. Those who
argue that authenticity is relational emphasize that we cannot analyse experience without considering its constituent parts and
that authenticity is a negotiation between the elements of the experience. Morin (2011) argues that the whole needs the parts
and that the parts do not exist without the whole. From a relational perspective, the negotiation of elements here a wider
and open system of elements enables the construction of authenticity. Complexity Theory helps us to analyse this negotiation
by highlighting the principles underlying the relationships between the elements in the system. Complexity theory arguably
goes further than other relational perspectives (such as Actor Network Theory, for example) by identifying key drivers of complex
systems (Morin's Hologrammatic, Dialogic and Organizational Recursiveness principles).
It is important to state that a complex approach opens up the discussion to multiple and simultaneous interpretations. This is
particularly relevant in tourism markets that are becoming more fragmented - what one tourist sees as authentic may differ
widely from the next visitor. So, the attempts by the producers to present authentic experiences must increasingly rely on exible
interpretations that take account of these different needs.
One important tactic that can link together complex ideas is storytelling (theme 9), which can involve the tourist and serve to
legitimize the authenticity of physical objects and the social environment. Storytelling can link all the disparate and complex el-
ements of authenticity together, to weave an authentic story about a place. It is through discourse that farm guides engage visitors
and tell their stories, positioning themselves as people who have a deep relationship with cacao (its past or its future). Storytell-
ing, therefore, uniquely connects the elements engaged in the tourism scenario of cacao farms: their service providers, local com-
munity, culture, physical objects, nature and government. This contributes to previous theory that discusses the contributions of
storytelling to the co-production of texts between producers and consumers. It is important to point out that in the present study
we propose the idea of an open system, in which the production of authenticity is mediated by storytelling, which is inuenced
by and negotiates with a far wider range of actors and objects than those present in the experience itself.
Based on our analysis of emergent themes, Morin's Complexity Theory provides a wider comprehension of not only of each
specic case, but the whole complex context that inuences and is inuenced by the experiences in the farms.
Conclusions
This paper aimed to examine how the complexity paradigm can improve our understanding of authenticity in tourism expe-
riences. Our analysis suggests that the complexity paradigm not only provides support for existing approaches to authenticity, but
also adds new dimensions. If we return to the main strands of authenticity research outlined in the introduction, our analysis
challenges strict objective, existential or constructivist approaches, which limit our ability to appreciate the complexity of real
world contexts and relationships. We would agree with SteinerandReisinger(2006)that simply combining different approaches
can lead to signicant epistemological problems, but complexity theory provides a potential means of overcoming this. Our anal-
ysis indicates that a complexity approach has the virtue of being able to unite object, place, and experience in a single framework,
as the relational conceptualization of Rickly-Boyd (2012) suggests.
Complexity theory also has the potential to go beyond purely relational views, seeing the world as an open system and pro-
viding a non-fragmented view of authenticity. By applying the complexity principles developed by Morin (2011) we have avoided
dyadic judgements of tourism experiences as authentic/inauthentic, understanding that the authentic is changeable, as are the cul-
tural and social aspects of the cases and their contexts. Authenticity is constructed by various actors who adopt different positions
in the narrative of authenticity, and play different roles in creating the whole experience for others. We extend the role of story-
telling in authenticity from the relationality of producers and consumers (Chronis, 2005) to include the interaction and dynamics
of tourists and tourist groups and their performance with objects, underlining the need for a simultaneous consideration of actors,
structures and contexts (Bargeman & Richards, 2020). These relationships exhibit non-linearity, making it difcult to separate
cause and effect in some situations, which underlines the value of qualitative and longitudinal research approaches. Understand-
ing authenticity involves a complex analysis of the elements of tourism experiences, which is situation specic and for which
there are no xed criteria. The boundary between the realand the enacted in a tourist experience is very thin, and authenticity
also depends on co-creation with and between visitors, who add their performances to the complex context.
10
The principles of complexity theory can enhance our analysis of authenticity. Utilizing the dialogic lens allows us to view ex-
periences more holistically, avoiding simplistic dyads. The farm experiences illustrated how culture can generate disorder, but si-
multaneously help to organize through improvisation creating an authentic environment. The organizational recursiveness
principle means that tourist experiences are not reducible to those of individual tourists, but are also produced and mediated
through the group: the simple act of knocking the Colonel's furniture transforms an individual experience into a group perfor-
mance and afrmation of authenticity. Hologrammatic thinking is exhibited in the stories that bind the different elements of
the cacao farms together. The stories weave together fragments of social, cultural and physical reality into a narrative of authen-
ticity, the telling of which holistically represents cacao culture, but which cannot be divorced from its constituent parts.
The complexity approach makes it clear that authenticity is based on a mix of different perspectives that can change rapidly as
the visitor mix is altered, or a farm changes hands, a new government is elected, or tourism policy is changed. It is not simply
attached to objects, or individuals or social structures, but actively negotiated through these relationships through the principles
of complexity. This also has practical implications for tourism destinations and attractions, most notably demonstrating the impor-
tance of collaboration among the complex web of actors in the tourism industry, the local population, government and promo-
tional bodies, who all need to connect and interact. Creating authentic experiences involves more than the management of the
tourist site itself, because the experience context also needs to support authenticity. The different parts of the tourism system af-
fect each other and the ultimate experience of authenticity, as the clash between the region's drive for mass tourism and the de-
sire of some actors for intimate connections attests.
We should also recognize the limitations of our approach. One of the practical challenges in much research on tourism expe-
riences, is the difculty of gaining direct information from tourists during an experience. We opted for informal conversations
with visitors, eliciting spontaneous reactions to the experience, but this reduced our ability to probe for specic information re-
lated to the empirical or theoretical aspects of the study. We also encountered challenges in reconciling the level of detailed in-
formation and general context required to study the parts and the complex whole simultaneously. We have attempted to resolve
this through a process of successively zooming inand zooming out(Nicolini, 2009) to identify the parts of the whole, and to
construct the whole from those parts.
For future research, we would suggest more attention could be focused on the complex relationships created by different types
of tourist experiences, and how these relate to Morin's complexity principles. It might be easier to apply complexity theory ho-
listically in relatively open situations such as our cacao farms, whereas more controlled and staged tourist environments may re-
late more closely to one or more of Morin's principles. Our research also indicates the value of longitudinal research strategies for
revealing the complex development of authenticity in tourist experiences over time. In our cases the Witch's broom crisis acted as
aground zerofor the cacao producers, initiating concerted moves towards tourism because of declines in cacao revenues. This
also created new aspects of authenticity, replacing the historical authenticity of commodity production with an emerging authen-
ticity of craft production of chocolate. In cases where systems have developed over longer periods of time, one might also expect
more complexity to emerge as more actors and relationship become involved. However, this is also likely to increase the chal-
lenge of describing the complexity of such systems in a single piece of research.
Declaration of competing interest
The authors declare that they have no known competing nancial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared
to inuence the work reported in this paper.
Acknowledgements
This study was funded by the Brazilian National Council for Scientic and Technological Development (CNPq) and by the
Brazilian Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES).
Appendix A. Supplementary data
Supplementary data to this article can be found online at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annals.2021.103348.
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Gastronomy of the Amazon
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