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'Dancing around the ring of fire': Social capital, tourism resistance and gender dichotomies at Up Helly Aa in Lerwick, Shetland

By Rebecca Finkel


This paper explores the linkages between community events and a rise in community social capital by analysing a case study of the Up Helly Aa fire festival in Lerwick, Shetland. Through ritually repeated action that now translates as tradition, Up Helly Aa interprets and re-interprets what it means to be a Shetlander. It relies on personal donations and local businesses for funding, and this financial self-reliance can be seen to permit exclusionary actions towards visitors and re-affirm notions of traditionally constructed gender roles. This paper examines the complex negotiations that take place during the festival surrounding gender, identity, heritage, tourism and belonging to a place. It concludes that given the physical and social landscape in which the festival occurs, the ritualisation of community celebration and fostering of community identity cannot be discounted despite Up Helly Aa's less than politically correct approaches to inclusionary participation and tourism development

Publisher: Cognizant Communication Corporation
Year: 2010
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