Souvenirs: Reminders of special moments or mass-produced kitsch?

Authors: Linsi He*, Arizona State University, Dallen J. Timothy, Arizona State University
Topics: Tourism Geography
Keywords: souvenir, authenticity, typology, tourism
Session Type: Paper
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Souvenirs have long played an integral part in the travel experience. One major research theme has been the authenticity of souvenirs. Researchers tend to have paradoxical and even polarized opinions about souvenirs, either positive (reminders of special moments) or negative (mass-produced, meaningless kitsch). Most research has focused on one extreme, the most ‘authentic souvenir’, especially local mementos, such as handicrafts. On the other extreme is the ‘inauthentic’ souvenir; these are mass-produced souvenirs that may be cheap and accessible for mass tourists but are often despised and considered insignificant by researchers. Despite the unpopularity of mass-produced, inauthentic souvenirs among cultural purists, the tourism marketplace is increasingly full of less-authentic, mass-produced souvenirs, many of which are becoming increasingly popular as tourist commodities. This phenomenon is not well researched in existing studies and typologies of souvenirs. Our research addresses this gap by presenting a typology of souvenirs and illustrates that the two polarized versions of souvenirs are generated under different logics of production. Some of the criteria traditionally used to evaluate the authenticity of traditional handicraft souvenirs might not be appropriate for evaluating mass-produced souvenirs.

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