Power, knowledge and tour-guiding : the construction of Irish identity on Board County Wicklow tour buses

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Jorgensen, Annette
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Channel View Publications
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Tourism industries construct and communicate images of the cultural, ethnic and national identities of host populations, images which are reproduced in brochures, guidebooks and in the language of tour guides. Such representations are attempts at attracting foreign visitors to holiday destinations by portraying these as exotic, mysterious or in other ways different from the every-day lives of potential travellers. In doing this, however, tourism imagery may also creates a sense of 'othemess', of difference between the intended audience, the tourists and the people and culture of the destination country (see, for example, O'Barr, 1994). Irish tourism imagery can be seen as a discourse on Ireland and Irish identity, which it constructs by selectively representing certain features of Irish culture, while dismissing others. Whereas media researchers have long acknowledged the need to examine audience readings of messages found in mass media, no attention has so far been paid to how Irishness is understood by foreign visitors during their holiday in the country. This chapter seeks to address the lack of attention to tourist interpretations by offering a preliminary exploration of how Irish identity is constructed on one-day tours to Glendalough in County Wicklow, not only by the tour guides, but also by the tourists themselves. Author keywords: Glendalough, Ireland, identity, otherness