Accepted paper:

Strategic guiding: the role of tour guides in the commercial staging of contested places

Author:

Athinodoros Chronis (California State University, Stanislaus)

Paper short abstract:

This paper introduces strategic guiding as purposeful, politically-minded practice of place-making, provides insight on the mediating role of tour guides as frontline strategists, and unpacks the sets of strategies they employ in institutionalizing contested sites as particular tourism destinations.

Paper long abstract:

Place, as a portion of space invested with meaning, is subject to multiple interpretations according to particular interests and ideological positions of concerned publics. Its rhetorical and imaginative construction, therefore, epitomizes a process that is fundamentally unstable, contested, and political. The present paper addresses a particular niche in the politics of place-making by examining the role of tour guides in the commercial staging of contested tourism destinations. I am concerned about the way in which guides take into consideration, choreograph, and conduct tourism mobilities in a specific way that supports particular ideological positions while excluding others. I draw empirical evidence from battlefield tours with licensed guides at an American Civil War battlefield. Particular attention is paid to the ways in which tour guides interpret the site, employ space, and, most importantly, orchestrate movement within the national park. Data analysis is informative about commercial efforts to historicize the landscape through strategies of spatialization, locate tourists within the historicized space through strategies of emplacement, and control movement through strategies of regulation. The employment of nationalistic language, the embodied entanglement of tourists within the historicized space, and the orchestration of movement through scripted itineraries are seen as official practices of institutionalization of the site as a patriotic landscape of national significance. This paper introduces strategic guiding as a purposeful, politically-minded practice of place-making, provides insight on the mediating role of tour guides as frontline strategists, and unpacks the sets of strategies they employ in institutionalizing contested sites as particular tourism destinations.

panel P088
The technologies and techniques of guiding: tour guides as cultural mediators