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Forging connections: tracing the fragmentary lives of tourist souvenirs in Swaziland and the UK

By Nissa Ramsay


This thesis explores the processes through which tourist souvenirs forge connections between people and place, in order to offer a renewed geographical encounter with theories of cultural materiality. It adopts the concept of the ‘souvenir-object’ to prioritise the capacities objects have to relate to and represent place, thereby offering a dynamic approach to understanding the significance of tourist souvenirs in tourists’ and producers’ lives. The thesis is based upon multi-locale ethnographic research in Swaziland (Southern Africa) and the UK. It adapts an innovative ‘following’ approach to research how souvenir objects are produced, designed, sold and purchased, taken home, displayed, given away and forgotten about. Each chapter explores different facets of the relations between people and objects, or objects and places, through the sites of souvenir production and consumption. In summary, this thesis offers an in-depth analysis of the souvenir industry in Swaziland and discusses how souvenir-objects are central to tourism practices. Theoretically and empirically, the thesis engages with affectivity and object presence, using the tourist souvenir as a vehicle to develop theories of relational materiality within social and cultural geography more broadly. I explore how tourist souvenirs have the potential to negotiate and re-work how they relate to their surrounding geographical imaginaries. The project also considers how tourist souvenirs fit awkwardly into tourists’ homes and it explains how the dynamics of appropriation surrounding this are always in process. Finally it examines how meaningful materialities of tourist souvenirs also emerge out of their multi faceted and enduring presence in producers lives. Overall, this thesis demonstrates how the tourist souvenir creates connections between people and places which are necessarily partial and fragmentary. The capacities objects have to inhabit multiple spaces poses a challenge to studies of tourism, material culture and consumption that are often underpinned by taken for granted notions of connectivity

Publisher: Geography (Sheffield)
Year: 2008
OAI identifier:

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