Power, Agency and Storytelling of South African Tour Guides

Authors: Shayane Dalencourt-Simon*, Emmanuel College
Topics: Tourism Geography, Africa, Black Geographies
Keywords: Keywords: social identity theory, worldmaking, agency, power, tour guide, apartheid, storytelling
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 50
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


A nation’s tourist attractions and historic and cultural sites are mediums through which national identity is perceived by nationals and presented to international visitors. Tour guides are key actors in portraying this identity, but we lack a clear understanding of the ways in which guides may actually shape a nation’s identity. This study addresses the lack of critical analysis of the relationship between tour guides and visitors and how storytelling indicates a guide's agency. Specifically, the analysis investigates how historical events inform the identity of a nation and influence tour guides, and asks how guides use their personal identity, thus their agency and power, to create a new narrative of their community. In using post-apartheid South Africa as a case study, I argue that tour guides use their own personal histories in their storytelling to construct new national narratives. Tour guides’ identities influence their storytelling as they construct the historical memory of their community. The methodology consists of participant observations of tours and semi-structured interviews with guides. The findings support the thesis that different aspects of identity, such as race, ethnicity, class, gender, and relationship to apartheid, influence guides’ narratives. The identities of tour participants also influence the manner in which guides present the narrative. This study contributes to the literature by detailing how storytelling and identity are important for analysis in terms of measuring agency in tourism workers, and investigates how guides’ worldmaking through storytelling represents the intent of bottom-up cultural workers to define their own spaces.

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