Tourism, Materiality, Representation and 'the Large'
Location Senate House South Block - Room G5
Date and Start Time 01 Jun, 2018 at 14:00
Sessions 2


  • Hazel Andrews (LJMU) email
  • Les Roberts (University of Liverpool) email

Mail All Convenors

Short abstract

Large objects might be the facilitators of tourism e.g.: modes of transport, or form the backdrop against which activities take place e.g.: public art, buildings, and bridges. This panel examines issues of materiality and representation in tourism through a consideration of 'the large.'

Long abstract

In anthropological studies of tourism materiality has tended to be considered through what are usually small things, in the form of souvenirs (e.g.: Graburn, 1976; Andrews, 2011). Exceptions of course exist and some objects are shipped home. But, by-and-large, souvenirs are necessarily small so that they can be easily carried home by tourists as a memento of their holidays. However, much tourism activity relies on the use and representation of much larger materialities. For instance, souvenirs are often representations of larger objects that are the focus of touristic practice e.g.: the Eiffel Tower. The ability to move to and through a tourism landscape relies on bigger materialities (e.g.: modes of transport). Large objects (herein called 'the large') often form the container - buildings, ships - of touristic practices. Equally, 'the large' can be the object of tourists' attention, e.g. public art. And tourism activities are often with or against a backdrop of large objects that do not travel (e.g.: buildings and bridges). This panel seeks to discuss issues of engagement with and representation of large materialities that inform tourism and its practice. Themes may include, but are not restricted to:

• Techniques and technologies of capturing representations of 'the large'

• The role of the body and embodiment of 'the large'

• Ways of knowing 'the large'

• The importance of 'the large' in representations of identity and culture for tourism purposes

• Consuming 'the large' in tourism

• Aesthetics of 'the large' in tourism

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Dances with Despots: Tourism performances and the taming of the large.

Authors: Elizabeth Carnegie (University of Sheffield) email
Jerzy Kociatkiewicz (University of Sheffield) email

Short abstract

The heritagization of political pasts is central to the reframing of such narratives and tourists have a key role to play. Focusing on Memento Park, Hungary, and Grutas Park, Lithuania, and elsewhere, we examine how figureheads of such regimes are displayed to diminish their former power.

Long abstract

"ghosts" inevitably emerge: odd fragments of memory that wander homeless in the wake of social and individual efforts to render the past coherent. (Leshkowich, 2008:5)

In this paper we argue that the heritagization of political figures and pasts is central to the reframing of such narratives and that tourists have a key, if sometimes unwitting, role to play in the shaping of the emerging political imaginaries. Focusing on Memento Park, Budapest, and Grutas Park, Lithuania, but drawing on examples of other reclaimed large representational objects and buildings which, (re) shape historic narratives, such as Museum of Occupations, Tallinn, we examine how such spaces banish political regimes and the giant imposing statues of figureheads of such regimes to the 'basement of history', displayed to diminish their former power. We explore how tourists are implicated in these narratives, performing acts of playfulness such as posing with the large scale statues on display, in ways overtly disrespectful to the individuals depicted. We consider how these public spaces are set up for such encounters, with the emphasis on using humour and mocking tactics to keep them neutralised in the hearts and minds of locals who may chose NOT to visit. We determine that international tourists may act as a proxy for local non-visitors, performing disobedience, helping to raise, and erase the ghosts, to render them harmless.

Leshkowich AM. (2008) Wandering ghosts of late socialism: Conflict, metaphor, and memory in Southern Vietnamese marketplace. The Journal of Asian Studies 67: 5.

Plastic and Roses: A New Way of Representing of Minority Culture in Rural China?

Author: Seraina Hürlemann (University of Lausanne) email

Short abstract

A new trend of planting roses in former agricultural fields and decorate them with huge plastic object constitutes an abrupt break with the conventional tourist imaginary of the Lashi Hai area (North West Yunnan). This paper analyses social processes behind the co- production of such tourist places.

Long abstract

Back at my case study site last spring, I was puzzled by the newest infrastructure development: A several meters tall sculpture of a red high heel made of plastic in midst of a vast rose manor. In this paper I will explore co- production processes of such tourist places located at Lashi Hai, a rural area in North West Yunnan, China. Due to Lashi Hai's proximity to one of China's most visited tourism destinations, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lijiang Old Town, the region's tourism sector has boomed during the last ten years, almost exclusively relying on organised day trip tour groups of Han Chinese tourists. The fact that they are visiting an ethnic minority population provides abundant material for imagination: there are plentiful of images and stereotypes of ethnic minorities in media, cultural productions, tourist promotion etc. on which to base one's imaginary of this region and its people.

Planting roses in former agricultural fields and decorate them with huge plastic object constitutes an abrupt break with the conventional tourist imaginary of the area however. I conceptualise local places as stage where culture and identity are contested and interests, expectations and imaginaries of different actors are negotiated. The physical environment of the places is thus considered as materialised results of such processes. If these results consist of roses and huge plastic objects - what does that represent? Using data of recent fieldwork, I will shed light the social processes behind the co production of such tourist places.

Attract or Dazzle: Displaying 'the Large' at the Imperial War Museum

Author: Kasia Tomasiewicz (University of Brighton) email

Short abstract

This paper explores the Imperial War Museums' changing relationship with large objects. It highlights the complex relationship between the allure of objects for visitors, and the objects' subversive potential.

Long abstract

From the 1960s onwards, the Imperial War Museums' (IWM) relationship with large objects began to change. This was in no small part down to its director, Nobel Frankland, who in 1968 installed the large 15 inch naval guns that have become synonymous with the Museum's image. This was followed by the acquisition of two large objects - HMS Belfast and Duxford Airfield - as sites of history in the 1970s. These acquisitions, along with the spectacular display of planes and bombs, continue to attract visitors to IWM today. Large objects can however, prove unsettling and highlight tensions in museolgical practice:

Primarily, the museological meaning behind display can easily get lost in the aesthetics of the object. Their size mean that visitors want to take photographs, touch or play in them. This sense of awe can prove disorientating for visitors. Secondly, as large objects embody the societal meaning placed on them, their significance can change in ways Museums could not have anticipated in the past. For example, the naval guns mean that visitors often assume the Museum represents military, over social history. In a bid to counter this and encourage tourism, the Museum has tried to position the objects as subversive sites, temporarily installing large flowers in the gun barrels. This however leads to the final point, that the cost of conservation of large objects is high. These objects cannot be easily altered, and as Museums across London move their collections to cheaper locations, what will become of large objects?

Riddle Me This: Size, Scale and Photography at the Great Sphinx of Giza

Author: Stéphanie Hornstein (Concordia University) email

Short abstract

Through an examination of text and photographic materials from the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century, this paper argues that the strategies employed by Westerners to convey the size and scale of the Great Sphinx of Giza in photography are symptomatic of imperial ideologies of the period.

Long abstract

The Great Sphinx at Giza has been a site of wonder (and tourism) at least since the days of ancient Greece and the answer to why this sphinx has received more attention than others seems to be rooted in its awe-inspiring proportions. From its beginnings in 1839, photography was among the many technologies used by Western visitors to come to terms with the Sphinx's enormity. Among the most photographed of Egypt's monuments, the man-headed lion began appearing in albums, lantern slides, stereographs, travelogue illustrations and even official reports from the British Ordnance Survey. Often accompanied by captions, these images, whether commercial, educational or governmental, were highly scripted messages that can be considered symptomatic manifestations of the dominant—namely colonialist—ideologies of the period. Along with physical format, which determined the viewing context of an image, text played a crucial role by framing and interpreting photographs of the Sphinx. Tourist memoirs, archaeological publications and guidebooks never fail to remark upon the colossus, often providing copious measurements and comparisons. However, in the blank expanse of the desert with little besides the equally gigantic pyramids to set it against, communicating the Sphinx's dimensions in photography was no easy task. Through an examination of text and photographic materials from the late nineteenth- and the early twentieth-century, this paper argues that the strategies employed by photographers to remedy this conundrum of scale were not innocuous, but to the contrary, participated in an imperial conquering of space and a condescending representation of Egypt's people.

In Awe! Tourism and the (Re)Making of Imperial Grandeur

Author: Athinodoros Chronis (California State University, Stanislaus) email

Short abstract

Whether in museums, palaces, religious sites, imposing buildings, or artistic legacies, the quality of "grandeur" attracts tourists' awe and admiration. This paper unpacks the concept of "grandeur" and sheds light on the ways in which it is created through guided tours in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Long abstract

Referring to the quality or state of being grand and magnificent, "grandeur" is an exemplary instance of the "large." Whether in heritage museums, palaces, religious sites, imposing buildings, or artistic legacies, the quality of "grandeur" is an object of attraction and admiration. Yet, we know little about the associated meanings and workings of grandeur in tourism contexts. While it is easier to apprehend grandeur in terms of size of natural settings, grasping its qualities when facing products of culture is not an easy undertaking. If grandeur has such a powerful grasp in tourist imagination, what are the ways in which tourism professionals use it in their marketing endeavors? How do we make "grandeur"? This paper aims to unpack the concept of "grandeur" and shed light on the ways in which it is used in the context of St. Petersburg, Russia. Built in the beginning of the eighteenth century as the new capital of Russia, it soon became the hub of a colossal Eurasian Empire. Today, its historic center with related groups of monuments has been designated a World Heritage Site. It attracts more than five million tourists a year and is included among the top destinations in the world. Ethnographic fieldwork was focused on guided tours offered to international tourists. Paying attention to licensed guides provided opportunities to theorize the discursive construction of an Empire, that, although it ceased to exist since the beginning of the twentieth century, it still casts a shadow of grandeur to St. Petersburg visitors.

How to Share the Wild with the World: Tourists' photographic performances at Banff National Park.

Author: Morgane Roux (University of Lausanne ) email

Short abstract

In this paper I explore how tourists' use of social media asks for new strategies to capture the materiality of the wild (in Banff National Park) and hence creates new ways of engaging with it.

Long abstract

Banff National Park is a large playground for tourists. Indeed, the immense wilderness and the mountains that compose it have been immortalized in various material forms, such as paintings, postcards and advertisements, over the last 130 years. Nowadays, by means of digital photography and smartphones, tourists have the opportunity to capture and share intangible, immaterial memories instantly with their loved ones or the rest of the world.

During my field visit in summer 2017, I observed a whole series of tactics tourists apply in order to immortalize these material spaces considered as "wilderness". After extensive investigation of tourists narratives on- as well as the observation of their photographic performances, I found that those had not emerged by chance. Much rather those practices seem to follow certain imaginaries and ideas of aesthetics constructed and perpetuated in various kinds of media. One major channel of photography diffusion today is Instagram, which thus plays a major role in producing touristic aesthetics, and constructing imaginaries of the wild.

In this paper I explore how tourists' use of social media asks for new strategies to capture the materiality of the wild and hence creates new ways of engaging with it. Furthermore I show how representations of the engagement with nature and large spaces like mountains and lakes are produced in a very particular way in order to be shared with the rest of the world, fitting the imaginary produced by social media and reproducing it at the same time.

Utilising Large Sites and Historic Buildings for Tourism Promotion: (Re)Presenting Narratives of Nation Through the Arts

Authors: Andrew Manley (University of Bath) email
Michael Silk (Bournemouth University) email
Lo Yun Chung (University of Bath) email

Short abstract

This paper explores issues associated with the active representation and consumption of large historic buildings and heritage sites through the arts. Key questions are raised regarding the importance of such cultural signifiers in shaping dominant narratives of nation and engaging the tourist gaze.

Long abstract

As vessels to represent specific cultural discourses surrounding notions of nationalism and identity, exhibitions—and the exhibits therein—assume a particular symbolism and meaning for the nation (McLean and Cooke, 2003). By portraying large material objects through the arts, such as historic photographs and paintings of heritage sites and buildings, exhibitions operate as a 'technology of nationhood' (Harvey, 1996), providing narrative possibilities for the imaging of a national 'brand' and the stimulation of tourist footfall (Urry and Larsen, 2011). In acknowledging the importance of attracting the tourist gaze through representing large objects and sites of national significance, the premise of this paper draws upon an exhibition entitled 'Romantic Scotland' that opened in Nanjing Museum, April 2017. Curated by Historic Environment Scotland and designed by Nanjing Museum, the exhibition included paintings and historic and modern photography of Scotland's most iconic buildings and heritage sites. Reflecting on a large data set obtained from a multi-method research project addressing the production/consumption of the 'Romantic Scotland' exhibition, this paper focuses upon the interpretation of such distinctive markers of nation and the importance of portraying large historic sites to shape a particular tourist identity. Here we draw out the complexities of positioning a nation, especially with respect to how large material objects, and a particular version of Scotland, was contoured to represent the object of tourists' attention. In so doing, we address important questions concerning the active (re)production and representation of place, culture and identity as it is consumed by an audience capable of extrapolating various meanings relational to their own positionality and cultural context.

The Douro Landscape, between practices and representations

Authors: Gonçalo Mota (UTAD) email
Nieves Losada (UTAD) email

Short abstract

This paper examines the production of landscape representations of the Douro Wine Region. Crossing a diachronic research in moving and still image archives with an ethnographic approach to the contemporary practices of visuality that make promotional touristic images by unmanned aerial vehicles.

Long abstract

This paper explores the following questions: What are the aesthetic, ideological and cultural parameters that guide the "makers" of audiovisual representations of the Douro landscape? In what way has the incorporation of new techniques and technologies of capturing representations of tourist landscapes established new approaches or departures from the tourist experience?

Trough an analysis of moving and still image archives of the region and by the ethnographic data collected from the practices of present day "makers" of promotional touristic representations, we will show how this professionals idealize and represent this landscape.

The first cartographic representation of the Alto Douro Vinhateiro region was made in 1843 by Joseph Forrester fixing the boundaries of the territory known for the produce of Port Wine. In 2001 this region was added to the World Heritage List as a cultural landscape. With the UNESCO inscription, this essentially winemaking region constituted by steep terraces is becoming also a touristic landscape. Its promotion demands images that are in the present time mediated by sophisticated representation technologies.

The starting point is the year of the publishing of Forrester's map. It is interesting to verify that this cartographic vision of the territory will be resumed in the XXI century, through the proliferation of the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, which has established a canon in the production of promotional videos, in which aerial moving image is favored as a form of representing the landscape.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.