G2


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Tourism and landscape narratives 
Convenor:
Jaap Lengkeek (Wageningen University)
Stream:
Series G: Landscapes
Location:
Henry Thomas Room
Start time:
13 April, 2007 at 10:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:
1

Short Abstract:

The panel aims at bringing together anthropologists as well as other social scientists discussing the dynamics of landscape narratives and their position in the shaping of tourist attractions.

Long Abstract

Landscapes constitute major attractions for tourists. Nevertheless, landscapes are not unambiguous phenomena. The physical appearances are linked to symbols, meanings, talks and narratives, which are stored in the human minds and form the basis for understanding and appreciating a landscape.

The meanings of landscape elements are only potential until the context shapes them (see Whiston Spirn 1998 The Language of Landscape). The context consists of attributed narratives (popular stories, media, books etc.) and meanings as well as practices linked to (the use of) the landscape. Landscapes and their narrative meanings are framed in power relations and in- or excluding practices of stakeholders.

Over time, landscapes accrue layers of meaning with every new representation, and these inevitably thicken and enrich the range of interpretations and possibilities (see James Corner 1999, Recovering Landscape - Essays on contemporary Landscape Architecture).

Tourism plays a role within these representations and power play around landscapes. Although community based tourism develops to a certain degree, the influence of Western or multinational NGO's and entrepreneurs is considerable. Many NGO's represent Western conceptions of ecology or heritage conservation. Entrepreneurs face the logic of running their business, which is not always aiming at top profits but at least connected to their clientele and the preferences of market segments. The clientele is predominantly Western.

Narratives are a resource of tourist meanings and the tourism developments shape and modify narratives of the landscape.In this respect the cross-cultural comparison is indispensable.

Accepted papers:

Author:

Chiara Cipollari (University of Perugia)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I shall speak of places, landscape and transformation in a Romanian village where the "production of locality" is hidden in the narratives but evident in the practises.

Paper long abstract:

The theme my paper deals mainly with the spaces in which the tourism experience occurs. I shall speak of places, landscape and transformation by considering space as a social product, and consequently the relationship between community and territory, in a dynamic and historically contextualised way.

Fieldwork war carried out in a Romanian village (Botiza) focusing particularly in the observation of the influences, the changes and the effects that tourism produced to the landscape.

An evident sort of contradiction stimulates my reflections. Botiza has gone through a process of transformation generally recognized as 'modernisation'.

However, only in some narratives it emerges the consciousness of the process of change taking place, while in the others it seem to be obliterated.

Tourists claim to choose Botiza as their holiday destination for the "beauty of its landscape", the "marvellous surroundings", the "brave nature", and, most importantly, the strong relationships that local people have with nature and the landscape.

In order to host tourists, local people refurnish their houses, invest tourism entrance in decorating the house facades, build wooden fences and, when possible, buy a car. Local administration builds a new road, bring running water nearer to houses and promotes the entrance of Botiza in wider tourism circuits.

Therefore, whilst the impact of changes is present in politics and in practises of tourism, it is not recognized it the narratives.

The idea of a never changing set of practises, traditions and costumes as well as landscape and the relation with it coexist with the local willing of ameliorate living standards through tourism income.

How do the protagonists make sense of this apparently opposite narratives? Why is the landscape and people's relationship with it the focus of both the narratives? I will try to analyse such issues through ethnographic data.

Author:

Donald Sutton (Carnegie Mellon University)

Paper short abstract:

Han Chinese tourist narratives at a west China site are acts of appropriation, like the pilgrim narratives about protective gods. The paper emphasizes the visuality of tourist narratives and practices and links both with notions of romance and ethnicity in the official Chinese media.

Paper long abstract:

The paper examines a landscape in western China with layered representations superimposed by Tibetan and Chinese pilgrims and modern-day tourists. Huanglong (Yellow Dragon) in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Region has been a World Heritage site only since 1992 but a pilgrimage center since the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The central site is a system of boardwalks and stone paths linking several temples and scenic spots over a sloping valley of travertine pools, caves and waterfalls. Key places within the site constitute a system of way-stations suggesting contrasting meanings to the site's visitors depending on their provenance and knowledge. Through the shifting role of way-stations with attached mythic-historical stories the Huanglong landscape may be regarded as an active participant in an evolving representational system spelling out power relations involving religion, ethnicity and environmentalism.

Focusing on Han Chinese tourists, the latest arrivals at this site, the paper interprets their stories and rituals as creative efforts to appropriate the power of the site and its way-stations, efforts that reflect the sentimentalized TV romances and portrayals of ethnic minorities circulating in the urban China mass media. The first half of the paper compares three tourist narratives with longer established ones, noting their more visual character. The second half examines the different form and effects of tourist visuality in relation to such themes as the objectivization of Tibetans and other national minorities, and nostalgia for the historical and the bucolic seen to be lost in the urbanized east. Like their narratives, tourist practices are seen as forms of commodification and appropriation, that also remake the Han Chinese tourist as a person of status. Tension between tourists' experience and official ideology leaves room for individual agency, though less than for others sharing the site.

Author:

Eleftheria Deltsou (University of Thessaly)

Paper long abstract:

Eco- and agro-tourism constitute two of the most popular forms of alternative tourism. This paper focuses on web representations of eco- and agro-tourism to show how in the particular context 'rurality' and 'nature' are constructed as re-signified commodities. The analysis of these websites will show that these forms of tourism construct essentialized nostalgic 'rural' and 'natural' spaces, which are commodified almost as endangered species. While these naturalized and a-historical narratives of eco- and agro-tourism build themselves around the rural/urban and past/present dichotomies, where the rural past homology signifies eternal past cultures that disappear in the appearance of modernity, they are themselves constructs of a key symbol of post-modernity, the Internet.

Author:

Jaap Lengkeek (Wageningen University)

Paper short abstract:

Stories are part of the meaning of tourism landscapes. Narratives link the material world to human activities in the past and the present. In this paper we explore the possibilities to take existing narratives as a starting point for landscape design.

Paper long abstract:

Landscape is a dominant attraction in tourism, outdoor recreation, leisure in general and an important point of reference in local and regional identities. It encompasses not only space, soil, water, nature and human settlements, but also geological and human history, all linked to particular interests of living people. Because it is connected to a long history of events that influenced its form and functions, the landscape is 'loaded' with a complex meaning reflecting the present as well as the past. Different relationships to the landscape create and created 'meaning': functionality or the use people make of it, the perceptual impact it has on the 'eye of the beholder', the narratives linked to it and the modes of ownership.

Design for leisure landscapes has been oriented to predominantly use functions, perceptual values (aesthetics; orientation etc.) and particular requirements formulated by landowners such as local authorities, tourism entrepreneurs and recreation management organizations (Brinkhuijsen, forthcoming). The narrative aspect is coming into view only recently. Narratives may consist of personal histories (the landscape of my youth..) and above all imply shared knowledge.

In this paper we take the narrative of a defence line that has been created in the East part of the Netherlands. The line, a complex of concrete dams, harbours, water feeder and bunkers, located in and along the river IJssel, was built in the nineteen fifties of the 20th Century in order to inundate the East border in case the Soviets would decide to invade Northern Europe. The construction defence line stopped before its completion, but left many traces in the landscape. Local volunteers in one village turned elements of the line into a recreational and tourist attraction.

The assignment taken in our project was: to conceptualise landscape narration, to apply this to different approaches to the same general story about the defence line and to find material figures of 'speech' for design in order to make the landscape and the narrative more or less 'readable' and understandable for visitors.

E

Author:

Dmitri Karmanov (University of Wageningen)

Paper short abstract:

The paper presents results of research on the impact of narratives on the perceived restorative qualities, attractiveness and interestingness of a Dutch lowland landscape and a contemporary urban environment.

Paper long abstract:

Improved negative mood states, improved cognitive functioning, physiological signs of stress reduction are some of the reported restorative effects following exposure to natural, but not to urban environments. In our study we discovered that a well-designed and attractive urban environment may have a stress-reducing and mood-enhancing power equal to that of an attractive natural environment.

Another issue we explored was the impact of a narrative on perceived restorative qualities, attractiveness and interestingness of the environment. The impact of narratives on the experiential qualities of tourist destinations is an important theme in tourism research as tourist destinations have traditionally been endorsed by narratives to appeal to the tourists' imagination. We constructed competitive narrative representations for both natural and urban environments and assessed their impact on the perception of the environments. Both narratives were almost exactly the same, the one having positive and the other negative overtones. We found that the addition of a 'positive' version of the narrative to a natural and an urban environment resulted into a 25 percent increase in interestingness and a 14 percent increase in attractiveness ratings, while the addition of a 'negative' version of the narrative resulted in a 15 percent decrease in interestingness and a 17 percent decrease in attractiveness ratings. These figures are calculated against the ratings of the version of the video without a commentary. Capitalizing on the strength of our findings we can speculate about the potential impact of narrative framing in terms of the power it extends or takes away in the process of the narrative construction of spaces.

E-paper: this Paper will not be presented, but read in advance and discussed

E

Author:

Marlies Brinkhuijsen (Alterra, Wageningen)

Paper short abstract:

none

Paper long abstract:

Nowadays, leisure and tourism have become significant factors in rural development, which is manifest in the ‘commodification’ of landscapes. However, leisure en tourist markets are very competitive and consumers increasingly demand high quality, unique and memorable experiences.

Landscape designers are called in to contribute to the adjustment of landscapes for leisure and tourism purposes. Landscape design involves functional as well as perceptive and imaginative aspects of space. It is this particular combination that is essential to making contemporary landscapes more attractive.

In the twentieth century, a specific design tradition concerned with leisure and tourism in cultural landscapes was developed in the Netherlands. My reconstruction of this tradition, based on an analysis of landscape designs from the 1920s to the present, shows that landscape designers used knowledge and theories from Leisure Studies and Environmental Psychology about functional use, behaviour and perception in their designs. However, imaginative aspects received less attention.

Contemporary landscape designers search for innovative means to rouse peoples’ imagination. With the new demands for special experiences, imaginative aspects have become very important nowadays. An interesting challenge for designers is the use of narratives. The value of this approach will be illustrated with the concept of ‘the legible landscape’.

E-paper: this Paper will not be presented, but read in advance and discussed