Spring 2004
ISSN 1473-219X

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(In)visible England: Mediating Ethno-Cultural Diversity through Tourism Discourse

William G Feighey is currently completing a PhD in Tourism Studies at the University of Luton.

This work in progress paper reports the first phase of a study which critically examines the representation of ethno-cultural diversity in the projection of England and Englisheness through tourism.


Recent debates regarding the future development of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic societies within western Europe have focused attention on the role of public institutions in privileging dominant groups, while subjugating or silencing others. In the United Kingdom, such debates have resulted in claims of ‘institutionalised racism’. In most west European countries, publicly funded Official Tourism Organisations (OTOs) hold a privileged position in projecting the ‘national’ identity(s) of any given territory to the world. This exploratory paper (part of an ongoing study) considers the role of OTOs in communicating the ethno-cultural diversity of contemporary English society. Specifically, this study focuses on the representation of the ethno-cultural diversity in the promotional discourse of OTOs in England. Through an analysis of selected ‘textual’ material it examines the representation of ethno-cultural diversity in the projection of England and ‘Englishness’ in and through tourism. Early emerging findings suggest that the representation of ethnic groups in OTO discourse is at best marginal, and reflects deeper patterns of political and institutional exclusion of ‘minority’ culture and identity, thus highlighting the need for further critical analysis of such discourse in relation to all ethnic groups, seen and unseen.


Representation in and through tourism may be regarded as a neutral process which depicts the ‘reality’ of people, places and culture for the gaze of leisure consumers. When viewed critically however, representation in tourism can be seen as perpetuating ideologies of production and consumption and reinforcing dominant ideas though discourses of the ‘market’. Few in tourism studies have focused directly and critically on the cultural terrain of representation in tourism. Thus, critical analysis needs to situate tourism representations politically in terms of inclusion and exclusion, individual and institutional interests, as well as in relation to the political linkages between tourism discourse and ideology.

This study focuses on the representation, in and through tourism, of ethno-cultural diversity within a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic west European ‘nation’, in this case England. Therefore, the study moves away from research which focuses on the representation of ‘remote’ and ‘authentic’ Others (predominantly conducted by European and North American scholars), and redirects the focus to envision representation across the shifting terrain of interstitial/ intervallic spaces (Bhabha, 1994: 2-4; Hollinshead, 1998: 67) between ‘self’ and ‘other’, thereby suggesting that tourism studies scholars and ‘industry practitioners’ might fruitfully re-examine those ‘natural’ everyday projections of who ‘we’ are.

The construction of English national identity has in recent decades received the attention of numerous scholars (Seaton-Watson 1977, 1979; Collis and Dodd 1986; Hall 1995; Moore 1995; Collins 1998; Davey 1999; Langlands 1999; Hickman 2000), an attention which Gervais (1993) refers to as the ‘autopsy’ of England. These probing investigations of the mythical body of England have extended to encompass most sections of the public and private sphere. In a variety of ways these debates contest, explore, address and are informed by the notion of ‘Englishness’. Much of the current debate on Englishness and English national identity is ‘relational’, both internally and externally. On the one hand the debate is concerned with England’s perceived relationship with Europe and North America, and perhaps more importantly, with England’s future role within a devolving United Kingdom. On the other hand, the debate is concerned with the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic nature of contemporary England, versus the mythology of a ‘national’ ethnic decent and common ancestry. Representation of England, in and through tourism, constitutes, and is constituted by, latent and explicit notions of ‘national’, ethnic, and cultural origin/belonging. Tourism is implicated in wider debates which struggle to confront the increasingly ephemeral nature of contemporary ‘English’ identities and affinities which are progressively premised on the recognition of difference and transition. This study enters these debates by examining the representation of ethno-cultural diversity in the projection of England and Englishness by OTOs in England.

Representation always operates within discursive fields and is usually focused around what might be broadly termed institutions of thought and understanding (Duncan, 1993:233). Specifically, the current study focuses on the representation of ethno-cultural diversity in the discourse of OTOs in England. The study is concerned with questions regarding the various ways in which England is conceivably represented to the world in and through the discourse of tourism and (within the context of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic England) with examining whose identities are privileged and/or subjugated or silenced by those agents of OTO discourse and praxis. Representations of England as a site of consumption for tourists (DCMS 1999: 39) are constructed by ‘agents of normalcy’ (Morris & Patton, 1979: 52, after Foucault) who may be unknowingly implicated in a web of circumstances – economic, social, cultural, environmental and political – which conceivably impose, to varying degrees, the dominant ideas and prevailing practices associated with any given milieu. Through the analysis of various communicative events (for example, travel features, press releases) the current study engages with classical questions of ‘who says (and does) what, to whom, how, why and with what effect?’ (Babbie, 1995: 306-307). In addressing these questions with reference to the projection of England and Englishness in tourism, the current study takes a critical approach to the analysis of OTO discourse within a framework of interpretative research. Research aims and objectives

This study is concerned with the representation of ethno-cultural diversity within the discourse of OTOs which act to represent England and Englishness to the world. Specifically, the research investigation aims to critically examine the representation of Ethno-cultural diversity in the construction and projection of England in and through tourism. Representation through the discourse of OTOs may, potentially, bind insignificant everyday communications into reference points which anchor meaning about any given locale. These shared meanings may also be unknowingly influenced by numerous everyday nuances in the discourse of OTOs. A primary objective of the current study is to illuminate the privileges and denials of ethno-cultural identity, which conceivably exist in the projection of England as a tourist destination. Hence, it is imperative that this study examines those discursive formations, which constitute official representations of England through tourism. Therefore, the objectives of this study are to:
examine representations of England within the contemporary articulations of certain official tourism organisations in the United Kingdom, in order to

reveal possible structures of dominance and suppression in the projection of England and Englishness in and through tourism, and to critique the degree to which ‘England’ is (or is not) being genuinely depicted as a diverse ethno-cultural place, in order to

enhance current knowledge regarding the significance of ethno-cultural diversity in the discourse and praxis of those particular official tourism organisations in England.

In addressing these issues the research investigation will critically examine discourses of four sample OTOs. These consist of two ‘national’ bodies engaged in ‘producing’ England as a tourism product, namely the British Tourist Authority (BTA) and, the English Tourism Council (ETC). At ‘regional’ level two Regional Tourism Organisations (RTOs), the London Tourist Board (LTB (a non-statutory body)) and the Heart of England Tourist Board (HoETB) are included in the study. The study aims to contribute to extant research on institutional discourse and praxis in the field of tourism studies in particular, as well as to the overall body of work on institutional systems of governance.

Previous research

This research study proceeds from a presumed link between representation and meaning, whereby the former influences (even makes) the latter. (Hall, 1997: 15) Tourism is a subject fundamentally concerned with perceptions of image and identity (Richter, 1995: 81), yet research focusing on the role of representation in tourism has to a large extent examined these projective practices in terms of their contribution to the development and marketing of destinations (Crompton, 1979; Gunn, 1988; Kotler et al, 1994), and to a lesser extent, in terms of the host-guest encounter. (Albers & James, 1983, 1988; Selwyn, 1994; Dann, 1996a) Within tourism studies, researchers have drawn on insights from anthropology (Selwyn 1996; Crick 1989); marketing (Morgan & Pritchard, 1999a); sociology (Cohen, 1972, 1979) linguistics (Dann, 1996a) and cultural studies (Hollinshead, 1993, 1996). Representation in and through tourism has been examined by a number of authors and through a variety of media including: photographs, (Albers & James, 1983, 1988); tourist art, (Cohen, 1993); brochures, (Uzzell, 1984; Weightman, 1987; Quinn, 1994; Selwyn, 1994; Morgan & Pritchard, 1995, 1996; Dann, 1996b; Echtner, 2000; Henderson, 2001); postcards, (Edwards, 1996; Markwick 2001); and travelogues, (Dann, 1992, 1996; Wilson, 1994; Zepple, 1999). Scholars working ‘across the borders’ of tourism studies have begun to provide a more critical inspection of tourism in terms of the inscriptive and enunciative potentials of tourism (Fjellman, 1992; Buck, 1993; Lidchi, 1997; Kirschenblatt-Gimblett, 1998). Much of this research has focused on aspects of representation within/of 'developing nations’ or ‘traditional peoples'. There is a paucity of research on the representation of ethno-cultural diversity in ‘developed’ nations with multi-ethnic populations.

The current study, in contrast, examines the representation of ethno-cultural diversity in the discourse of institutions responsible for the projection of an ethno-culturally diverse ‘developed’ society, in this case England. It is not a study of ‘ethnic’ or ‘racial’ groups, or ‘minorities’ per se. It is an investigation of the role of publicly funded tourism organisations in projecting ethno-cultural identity and focuses on the power relations underpinning the production and distribution of explicit discursive events. The study raises questions relating to the ways OTOs may conceivably highlight, appropriate, institutionalise, or deny ethno-cultural diversity when projecting England and English heritage and identity in and through tourism.

Focus of the research

Representation may be regarded as being historically and culturally specific, and can be regarded as a product of a particular culture and history which is socially constructed. (Mitchell, 1990; Hall, 1997) Representation is ‘negotiated’ through social processes and therefore offers numerous possible interpretations which both sustain and exclude. Representation can be defined as the production of meaning through language, discourse and image (Hall, 1997) and is a 'key moment' in what has been called the 'circuit of culture'. (de Gay, Hall et al., 1997. Through the language (signs, symbols) of representation, tourism promoters project concepts, ideas and feelings to an audience who share a common access to language. In 'social constructionist’ approaches representation is conceived as entering into the very constitution of things; and thus culture is conceptualised as a primary or 'constitutive' process, as important as the economic material 'phase' in shaping social subjects and historical events – not merely a reflection of the world after the event. (Hall, 1997: 5-6)

In tourism, the representation of peoples, places and pasts seem to be predominantly market-driven, they are predicated on the perceived fantasies of potential tourists in tourist generating areas. However, such fantasies may be seen as an expression of people’s pre-understandings which are conceivably evoked by tourism producers and agents of mediation in the process of commodification through tourism. In projections of ‘developing’ destinations representations are often concerned with projecting images of ‘unspoiled’, ‘authentic’, ‘primitive’ or ‘exotic’ locations in order to cater to certain pre-existing images in Western consciousness ‘about how the Other is imagined to be’ (Silver, 1993: 303). In destinations such as England, the representation of the Western ‘self’ in tourism rely on fantasies of continuity and myths of ethnic origin. These ancestral and foundational myths, which were widespread in Africa and Asia from early times, were forged in Europe during the eighteenth century when ‘most of Western Europe was caught in a romantic quest for origins’. (Smith, 1999: 60) When discussing tourism in the ‘third world’, Silver makes the point that ‘most natives are positionally unable to affect how images of authenticity (sic) are constructed and marketed… it is the operators and their agents who continuously redefine and reconstruct notions of ‘authentic’ culture’. (Silver, 1993: 316) Similarly, in UK contexts it can be argued that in England individual subjects (citizens) may have little influence on the representations projected to portray Englishness or English identity, despite the fact that those charged with such projective practices operate within the prevailing system of representative governance.

Meanings in tourism, like meanings everywhere, are grounded in relations of power, who represents what, whom and how are critical and often contested issues. (Morgan & Pritchard, 1999a: 36) Thus, the mediation of local, regional or national identity and culture is inexorably implicated in political and ideological structures and processes within the nation state. Hence, state interest in tourism can be regarded as much political and ideological as it is economic. As Long (1989, 1997) argues, a natural affinity exists between the nation state and tourism in terms of a shared interest in representing a place as unique and attractive. Furthermore, touristic rhetoric is often utilised as a strategy for ethnic acceptance and inclusion (Wood, 1998: 234) on the one hand, and for the exclusion of ‘minority cultures’ through absence or silence, on the other. The projection of sub-national and national identity and culture is increasingly communicated, within and across national frontiers, through tourism related discourse (Swain, 2002: 11). Yet, as Morgan and Pritchard (1999a) remind us, ‘one-dimensional representations of national identities are increasingly unrepresentative of most contemporary societies, particularly as previously powerless ethnic minorities (sic) grow in economic, cultural and political influence’. (Morgan & Pritchard, 1999a:96) Preliminary research for the current study suggests that representations of ethno-cultural diversity in the discourse of OTOs in England is predominantly driven be the demands of the tourism generating areas as they desire the reflection of the self in promotional material. Representation in tourism draws on pre-existing collective memory in the process of selecting and projecting what ‘should be experienced’ in any given setting. (Hollinshead, 1993) Thus, it is crucial to recognise that just as knowledge is never neutral (all knowledge is derived from looking at the world from some perspective or other), so representation in and through tourism is the product of individuals and groups who themselves are products of particular societies and social groups. As Hall points out, ‘we all come from and speak from somewhere, we all have different routes into modernity, we are all ‘located’ – and, in that sense, even the most modern bears the traces of a cultural identity and cannot be without it. (Hall, 2001: 15) Thus, those ‘agents of normalcy’ consciously and unconsciously implicated in the promotion of England through tourism are inexorably subject to those relations of power-knowledge which as Foucault reminds us are defused throughout the social body.

This study examines the representation of England and Englishness within contemporary articulations of OTOs in England, and seeks to uncover possible structures of dominance and suppression in the projection of England and Englishness in and through tourism, as well as to critique the degree to which England is being genuinely depicted as a diverse ethno-cultural place. In seeking to gain insight which may inform these research questions, this study will analyse the networks of text and talk which articulate the link between representation and power in the discourses of tourism. The given or found signification used to portray and promote national, regional or community culture in and through tourism is not disinterested or politically neutral, but can be viewed as an inexorable part of the social processes of domination and control which conceivably privilege some and subjugate or silence others. Several authors address questions of power in the context of representation in and through tourism. Owens (1992) argues that representation is the founding act of power in our culture (Owens, 1992: 91). Bond and Gilliam (1994) remind us that ‘representing the past and the way of life of populations is an expression and a source of power’. (Bond & Gilliam, 1994: 1) Hollinshead draws our attention to the historical specificity of representation and suggests that all representations of culture – that is, each and every projection and delineation of race (sic)/ ethnicity/ nationhood in tourism – is saturated with power, and that such representations of culture should increasingly be seen as historically constituted depictions rather than ontologically given accounts. (Hollinshead 1998: 51) Contemporary discussions of power in the context of tourism are informed by Foucauldian thought (Hollinshead, 1999; Morgan & Pritchard, 1999a; Cheong & Miller, 2000) and the current author has sought to deploy Foucault's work in developing this research. Within prevailing resource constraints (human and temporal) the current study strives to uncover the conscious and unconscious formation of such projected reality, even if such representations are seen by members of potential out-groups as ‘natural’ and ‘legitimate’. The study seeks to infuse the emergent tourism studies literature with insights derived from Foucauldian thought, operationalised through a methodological approach informed by Fairclough (1992, 1995), as well as from the already vibrant literature in cultural studies, including the work of Bhabha (1994) and Hall (1997a). These authors constitute some of the key commentators who are encountered in any investigation of representation.

Context of the study

This research study is set against a background of increasing individual and institutional awareness of, and concern for, the future of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic England. (Denman, 2001; Phillips, 2001) England at the dawn of the twenty-first century is a multicultural society (Roach & Morrison, 1999) and such diversity is officially recognised through numerous laws and public policy statements and by political leaders. It is estimated that by 2015, 40% of the youth population of London and Birmingham will comprise of people whose ethnic background is ‘Afro-Caribbean’, or ‘Asian’. (Dyke, 2000) Aspinall estimates that by 2011 28% of London’s population or just under two million persons will belong to ethnic minority (sic) groups, compared with 20% or 1.4 million in 1991, an increase of 40% or around 570,000 persons. It is also estimated that by 2011 two London boroughs will have ethnic minority (sic) communities comprising over 50% of their population – Newham (61%) and Brent (52%). (Aspinall, 2000:110) Other metropolitan areas are likely to witness similar population changes over the coming decade. Despite the apparent ‘reality’ of ethno-cultural diversity, debates about ethnicity, ‘racial’ and cultural diversity often provoke strong reactions from those concerned with such issues. The current study commenced in 2000, a year in which highly contested debates regarding ‘race’, asylum and national identity were ubiquitous in all forms of public culture in England. (Great Britain, Parliament, 2001) According to Solomos, ‘almost everybody is talking about the role of racial and ethnic categorization in the construction of social and political identities’. (Solomos, 2001: 198) Ethnic minority (sic) groups with, in fact, very different histories, traditions and identities have been marginalised in British culture as a consequence of a set of quite specific political and cultural practices which regulate, govern and ‘normalise’ the representations and discursive spaces of English society. (Hall, (1988:266) Ethnic representation may support an authorised version of an national past that promotes dominant groups and marginalises ‘others’. Within the current epoch the tourism industry plays a key role in communicating symbolic representations both within cultures, as well as to opposing or ‘Other’ cultures.

Significance of the study

This study seeks to inform the ongoing debate on the representation of ethno-cultural diversity in multi-ethnic England (Kidd, 1999; Roach & Morrison, 1999), and potentially, will contribute to institutional and public policy formation in relation to tourism, as well as to the diverse communities whom such policy normally seeks to serve. The current study is particularly significant in the context of recent UK Government legislation concerning the duty of public servants to ‘connect with all the people they serve – consulting and working in partnership with all communities, all races (sic), nationalities and socio-economic groups’ (Race Relations Act 1976: Statutory Duties Order, 2001). This research study seeks to provide insights into the representation of England and Englishness in and through tourism, who may have a dominant influence, what ideological or political discourse underpins such ‘production’, and how such representational discourse is implicated in individual and collective praxis of remembering and forgetting. Such investigations would constitute an examination of the mobilisation of power through the critique of discursive events within broader discursive formations of tourism.


Inbound tourism contributes over sixty four billion pounds to the UK economy annually (DCMS, 2001), and this, the economic aspects of the tourist trade, has been the primary focus of tourism research in the UK. While there have been studies concerned with socio-cultural aspects of tourism in the UK (Winter, 1987; Morgan & Pritchard, 1999b; Jones, 2000; Shaw & Macleod, 2000), none of these studies have examined tourism in relation to the ethno-cultural diversity of contemporary English society, nor indeed UK society in general. Tourism is to large a large extent founded on the representation of peoples, places and pasts (Hollinshead, 1993): therefore, in tourism, the representations projected to potential tourists can be regarded as being a key communicator of ‘local’ identity and culture. Such representations carry resonance not only for potential tourists, but also for local residence who constitute one of the audiences for such discourse. Because of the communicative power of tourism, representations of tourist destinations have direct and potentially significant influences on those peoples/communities who are being represented, re-represented, and misrepresented, as well as for those who are absent from such representation. In multi-ethnic England issues of social inclusion/exclusion are regarded by national and local government and other public institutions as being highly relevant to the continued social and economic development of the ‘nation’. Therefore, the current study of the representation of ethno-cultural diversity in the discourse of OTOs in England is required in order to explore potential discursive reproductions of dominance by OTOs, through the articulation of institutionalised ‘public’ discourse of tourism.

Theoretical framework

Mankind, for many philosophers both ancient and modern, is a ‘representational animal’, homo symbolicum, the creature whose distinctive character is the creation and manipulation of signs – things that ‘stand for’ or ‘take the place of’ something else. (Mitchell, 1990: 11) Throughout the development of social theory, many scholars strove to produce a neutral, transparent representation of the world based on empiricist understandings of ‘truth’. More recently representation (of people, places, and cultures) has come to be regarded as a form of power circulating within and between social groups. Jackson (1992) suggests that ‘recent years have witnessed some significant challenges to this virtual hegemony in the power of representation, with (for instance) the development of history-from-below, feminist critiques of masculinist forms of knowledge, and the growing realisation of a ‘crisis of representation’ throughout the human sciences’. (Jackson, 1992: 115-117) These ‘challenges’ have emerged primarily from postmodernist perspectives on the one hand, and from interpretative methodologies on the other. Under postmodernity, representation becomes a new area of comodification (Jameson, 1991) where images, styles and representations are no longer just promotional accessories but conceivably the products themselves. (Connor, 1989: 46) At this millennium moment, representation seems to be assuming an increasingly important space in the social and cultural sphere.

This research study is informed by Foucauldian perspectives on subjugated knowledge which have, over recent decades, had a major influence on all domains of social theory. Foucault is generally interested in the way that people within organisations/ communities/ epochs of the Western world regulated themselves, and have been regulated, through the force of the established power-knowledge of that setting. (Foucault, 1980) The objective (of Foucauldian thought) has been a re-discovery of subjugated knowledge, not the construction of bodied of ‘systematizing theory’. (Smart, 1995: 16) In this study and in the social constructionist tradition generally, meanings are seen as being constructed through language as a 'tool for action'. Furthermore, in the current study critical discourse analysis (see part two, below), is deployed in an attempt to meet critical calls regarding the discursive power of representation in tourism. Thus, the study seeks to achieve a productive fit between social theory and the turn to language in critical approaches to methodology.

Research design and methodology

During the ‘context setting’ stage, this study utilises quantitative and content analytic methods in order to provide baseline information and to place the study in the context of recent OTO projective practices. Primarily however, this study adheres to the analytic paradigm of ‘Critical Discourse Analysis’ (CDA). More specifically, this study draws substantively on a three-dimensional approach to discourse developed by Fairclough (1989, 1992, 1995) who was heavily influenced by ‘critical linguistics’ (for example, Hodge & Kress, 1993), which focuses on the links between grammatical structure and the social contexts in which language is used, and its implication with power. In developing his approach Fairclough draws on the work of Foucault for its contribution to social theory. For example, Foucault’s work on the relationship between discourse and power-knowledge, the discursive construction of social subjects and knowledge, and the role of discourse in social change. These are areas in where linguistically-oriented approaches are weak and underdeveloped. (Fairclough, 1992: 38)

The three-dimensional approach to discourse in this study is concerned with language (written and spoken) ‘in use’, and focuses on discourse as text, discourse practice, and social practice. CDA is interested in a very general way in dominance and power relationships between social entities and classes, between women and men, between and amongst national, ethnic, religious, sexual, political, cultural and sub-cultural groups. Its point of departure is always the assumption that inequality and injustice are repeatedly reproduced in language and legitimised by it. (Titscher, et al, 2000: 164) From their inception, CDA approaches have had a political project. The intention has been to bring a system of excessive inequalities of power into crisis by uncovering its workings and its effects through the analysis of potent cultural objects – texts – and thereby to help in achieving a more equitable social order. (Kress, 1996: 15)

Some scholars (for example, Jaworski & Coupland, 1999: 33) question why CDA needs to be distinguished as a separate tradition. A partial answer to this question lies in the perceived need of critical discourse analysts to distance themselves from the kind of descriptivism espoused by early approaches. (Sinclair & Coulthard, 1976) CDA is concerned with discourse as an instrument of social construction, therefore they are politically engaged. CDA should not be regarded as a homogeneous method or set of methods. CDA is a term that is most often used to identify a set of perspectives that emphasize the relations between language and power and the role of discourse analysis in social and cultural critique. (Wood & Kroger, 2000: 205)

From a general CDA ‘orientation’, all claims to ‘truth’ are regarded as suspect and all attempts at representation are in essence polysemic. Discourse analysis in the context of the present study, the representation of ethno-cultural diversity in the discourse of OTOs in England, should be regarded as an interpretative approach to research, rather than a method or set of techniques. While the terms ‘discourse’ and ‘discourse analysis’ are highly contested (Gill, 2000: 173), this research study takes up a position which in addition to analysing the ‘content’ of texts, focuses on the gaps, absences and silences in the ‘text’, in terms of inclusion and exclusion.

The approach adopted in this study the representation of ethno-cultural diversity in the discourse of OTOs in England sees any instance of discourse as simultaneously a piece of ‘text’ (written or spoken language), an instance of ‘discursive practice’, and an instance of ‘social practice’. However, the methodology deployed in this study is also informed by Foucauldian insights on discourse, for example the relationship between discourse and power-knowledge, the construction of social subjects and knowledge, and the implication of discourse in social change. Fairclough (1992: 38) observes that much of Foucault’s work was concerned with specific discourses (medicine, psychiatry, economics) and the ‘conditions of possibility’ (Robin, 1973:83) of discourse. However, textually oriented discourse analysis, such as that adhered to in this study, is principally concerned with any sort of discourse.

Sampling method

In this study the focus of interest is the representation of England by those official tourism institutions/organisations who act to project England as a sight of consumption for tourists. Thus, of the methods of sampling available in the literature, purposive (theoretical) sampling in terms of deliberately chosen sites, persons, and documents appear to be most suitable for the current study of the representation of ethno-cultural diversity in the discourse of OTOs in England. Therefore, various BTA/ETC/RTB published materials have been selected as appropriate sources of data. Likewise, interviews with selected individuals within the BTA/ETC/RTBs responsible for, or implicated in, the production of such institutional discourse can be regarded as appropriate within a purposive sampling framework. Within the conduct of purposive sampling, one of the key points is that the entire sample is not nominated in advance because it cannot be normally/readily known in advance. Rather; the sample selection remains open to adjustment as new sources of relevant material are identified in the ongoing process of the research. As the research unfolds other sources of data believed to be relevant to the study of representation within the discourse of OTOs will be identified by the researcher and included in the sample frame.

Approaches to analys

It is generally acknowledged that the conduct of discourse analysis requires a particular orientation to text, a frame of mind which allows the researcher to contemplate what might be involved in the analysis prior to any engagement with the ‘data’ to be analysed. (Wood & Kroger, 2000: 91-116) This has led some to conclude that such forms of analysis are loose and undisciplined. (Wood & Kroger, 2000: 91-116) However, such processes of contemplation are necessary if the analyst is to approach the task with an open mind and to examine the discourse creatively and to entertain multiple possibilities. In the conduct of CDA there is no necessary sequence of analytic activities. Wood and Kroger (2000: 96) assert that, ‘because analysis involves recycling and iteration, there is no necessity to begin analysis at the beginning of the data set, to consider any or all of the smaller segments before examining the larger sections or even the discourse as a whole, to carry out all the activities for units of any particular size, or to focus the analysis on any particular level’. Analysis moves over and across the data in examining the focus of the discourse in a recursive or iterative fashion and the analysis is always provisional. Van Dijk (2000) reminds us that decades of specialisations in the field have ‘discovered’ many hundreds, if not thousands, of relevant units, levels, dimensions, moves, strategies, types of acts, devices and other structures of discourse. Hence, there is no such thing as a ‘complete’ discourse analysis: a ‘full’ analysis of a short passage might take months and fill hundreds of pages. Complete discourse analysis of a large corps of text or talk, as we often have in CDA research, is therefore out of the question. (Van Dijk, 2000: 5) As has been outlined above, CDA utilises a combination of methods of analysis. In the current study there is no pre-ordained ‘definitive’ unit of analysis. Wood and Kroger (2000: 98) suggest that in any particular instance a unit of analysis can be regarded as the smallest workable ‘chunk’ that you can do something with, and that the analyst should be guided by the purpose of the research. Overall, the importance of working with ‘manageable’ segments of data is recognised.

Figure 1

Methods of analysis

The three-dimensional framework adopted in this study (text, discourse practice, and social practice) forms an important principle for CDA that analysis of texts should not be artificially isolated from analysis of institutional and discursive practices within which text are embedded. In relation to the present study such awareness means that in analysing the discourse of OTOs one should also have regard to the diverse ways texts may be interpreted. The current study will combine the analysis of text with an analysis of the processes of text production and distribution. This aspect of the CDA approach has been initiated by conducting textual analysis in conjunction with interviewing those individuals responsible for producing and distributing such texts within the institutional setting. In this way the study fulfils the need to ‘bring close textual analysis together with social analysis of organisational routines for producing and distributing texts’. (Fairclough, 1995: 9) Figure 1 outlines the analytic process carried out for each dimension within the approach.

Research to date and emerging findings

Work completed during the initial stage of the study can be grouped under three broad headings: ‘draft chapters’, ‘context setting’, and ‘textual analysis’. To date, drafts of three thesis chapters have been written. Chapter One (Introduction) sets out the broad context within which the study takes place and introduces the overall approach to the research ‘problem’. Chapter Two (Literature Review) provides a review of relevant literature through an examination of various ‘concepts’ which inform the study. Chapter Three (Methodology) sets out a detailed account of the methodological approach taken in the study. Work completed in these early (draft) chapters contributes to the evolution of the study, as well as informing the two main sections of this report outlined below.

The context setting stage seeks to provide baseline information on the operational context of the various OTO in England. In addition, this stage sought to review the ‘projective practice’ (ie, the promotional output) of the BTA during recent decades in order to underpin the study with relevant data over a sustained period. This stage also includes a number of interviews with selected individuals within the BTA. These can be regarded as ‘pilot’ interviews carried out in preparation for the main interviews series to be conducted with selected individuals within the OTOs during the final stage of the study. Although both the pilot and main interviews will be transcribed and analysed as ‘texts’, the pilot interviews provided useful contextualising data which informs the emerging finding. Stage two textual analysis, focuses on the critical analysis of various OTO ‘texts’.

Preliminary investigations reveal that there are numerous sources of OTO discourse available to researchers. These comprise, for example: Promotional Brochures, Promotional Film and Video, CD ROMs, Web Sites, Information Leaflets, Press Releases, Travel Features, Minutes of Board Meetings, Annual Reports and Trade Targeted Information. In terms of ‘fit’ with the objectives of the study it was decided that a mixture of ‘texts’, some specifically produced for consumption by tourists (or potential tourists) and others concerned with the functioning of the particular tourist organisations (OTOs) within the prevailing structures of governance, would be appropriate as an initial sample. Sections one, context setting and section two textual analysis, below provides comment on the specific ‘texts’ initially selected.

Context setting

In England there are ten regional tourism boards (RTBs) each responsible for promoting tourism within a designated region. At ‘national’ level the English Tourism Council (ETC) is the strategic body for tourism in England. At the ‘United Kingdom’ level the British Tourist Authority (BTA) is responsible for marketing ‘Britain’ abroad. This is the context within the OTOs included in this study operate. It was decided that the BTA, as the overall body responsible for promoting ‘Britain’ (and by implication, England) abroad, and the ETC, as the strategic body responsible for tourism in England, would be included in the study. At regional level, the Heart of England Tourist Board (HoETB), and the London Tourist Board (LTB) were selected for inclusion in the study, as these RTBs represented regions of large population density and ethno-cultural diversity. Following initial discussions with BTA staff regarding BTA promotional brochures, it was decided to compile an inventory of BTA promotional (printed) material held at the British Library (this material is held under ‘batch’ numbers and items are not catalogued individually by the British Library, hence the need to compile an inventory). Such an inventory would, it was felt, provide a contextual backcloth of the representation of people, places and pasts through BTA promotional activities over a sustained period (1953 to 2000). The inventory recorded the title, description of the front cover image, focus (ie, specialist or generalist) of each brochure, number of pages, number of photo images, and description (ie, A4, A5, etc) of each brochure. In addition, any images containing representations of people from the so called ‘visible communities’ (Alibhai-Brown, 2001) were recorded.

The ‘content’ of two aspects of the brochures were analyses, namely brochure ‘titles’ and the descriptions of ‘front cover images’, in order to provide data on the cultural resources fore-grounded by the BTA over recent decades. In all 1137 brochures were recorded in the inventory. A content analysis of brochure titles revealed that a high proportion of BTA brochures focused on heritage ‘attractions’ (castles being the dominant theme). Individuals with the BTA responsible for constructing promotional material regard cultural resources such as the historic ‘built’ environment as one of the primary and foundational themes within their projective practice. In descriptions of brochure front covers, ‘people’ were predominantly represented by ‘men’, with ‘children’ being the second most frequent category of ‘people’ represented. The representation of women in brochure front covers was relatively low with only one quarter the frequency of that of men. Overall in terms of ethno-cultural diversity these aspects (title and descriptions of cover image) of BTA brochures represent rather homogenous views of England. In all 1137 brochures included in the inventory only two images could be identified as representing members of the ‘visible communities’. In this limited range of inspected brochure elements there seems to be few instances where the ethno-cultural diversity of England is mediated through such discursive events.

Although this study does not extend to the analysis of image (ie, brochure and web-based photographs) content, the study does intend to investigate the structures and relationships of institutional power which are conceivably implicated in the production and distribution of such ‘texts’. Therefore, during the initial ‘context setting’ stage of the study a quantitative analysis of the BTA Image Resource Centre (‘Britain on View’) was carried out. The BTA archive was searched electronically using a range of ‘keywords’, such as for example ‘African’, ‘Asian’, ‘Chinese’, ‘Ethnic’. The rationale for selecting particular keywords was that these ‘signifiers’ were employed to describe members of various ethnically distinct populations (the so-called ‘visible communities’ (Alibhai-Brown, 2001) in the 1991 UK census. This method of analysis resulted in a range of photo-images being identified within each ‘keyword’ segment. For example the term ‘Asian’ resulted in sixty one images being identified; using the term ‘African’ produced two images; ‘Chinese’ twenty three images; and ‘South Asian’ one image. It is recognised that such analysis is dependent to the ‘description’ given to each image as they are added to the archive, therefore such analysis may be regarded as ‘indicative’ rather than conclusive. The most striking feature of this preliminary analysis of the BTA archive is the almost total absence of the so-called ‘visible communities’ from representations of England projected by the BTA. Of the 200,000 images in the BTA image resource archive, the representation of the ‘visible communities’ is minuscule (‘Asian’, 0.03%, ‘Chinese’, 0.01%). Furthermore, representation of ‘ethnic’ groups, as defined in the 1991 census, are predominantly those of visitors to England, rather than representations of these ethnic groups as part of the ‘home’ communities.

The analysis of BTA brochure images also resulted in an extremely low level of representation with a total of only two images representing members of the ‘visible communities’ within these categories. Those representations which were identified were contained within recent brochure publications. Therefore, there may be some evidence of increasing inclusion of ethno-culturally diversity in representations of England projected by the BTA. Representations within the image resource archive are not dated, therefore it is not possible to easily establish the year of publication within this segment.

During preliminary interviews with a member of the editorial staff at the BTA it became apparent that the organisation is aware of the paucity of images of ‘ethnic minorities’ in their promotional material. Interestingly, such awareness stems from research carried out in the overseas tourism generating areas (i.e. tourists desire to see themselves in the projected images of England) rather than from a desire by the BTA to represent the ethno-cultural diversity of the ‘home’ communities. While being interviewed for this study, one official at the BTA commenting on the absence of images of ethnic ‘minorities’ in BTA promotional material, suggested that one of the difficulties they (the BTA) faced in this regard was the unwillingness of members of such ‘groups’ to allow themselves to be photographed. Such positions are closely related to Gramsci’s theory of hegemony and in particular to his concept of ‘spontaneous consent’. The ‘problem’ (lack of photographic representations) is located within the ‘minority’ population itself and the dominant group make ‘compromises’ (in this case refrain from taking photographs) to the dominated group, which in fact do noting to disrupt the hegemony of the dominators.

Textual analysis

From the foregoing contextualising investigations it was decided, initially, to select three separate ‘types’ of textual material for critical analysis (Table 1). These were a series of travel features produced by the BTA under the title ‘British Features’ (BF), press releases (PR) produced by the BTA, ETC, HoETB and LTB, and Web Based Text (WBT) produced by all four organisations. These, it was felt would provide a broad spectrum of discursive events for analysis across the four organisations. However, the research design enables other emergent and relevant sources of data to be included in the data set as the study unfolds.Of particular interest in this study, and in CDA in general, is the position or ‘positions’ of the text producer. This aspect of text production has been approached by deconstructing the producer of texts into various ‘positions’ (Goffman, 1981: 144); for example, the ‘author’ (the person who communicates through a shared medium – ie, written text) and the ‘principal’, the person or entity whose position is represented by the words (for example, the individual or institution who provides the content or directs such communication). In this study the author may be an individual or group of individuals within the OTO concerned, but the principal may be the institution itself, a Government department, or the collective interests of large corporations.
discursive event
Web-Based Text ETB N/A 6
British Features BTA 2000/2001 14
Press Releases BTA 2001/2002 10
Press Releases ETC 2001 44
Press Releases HoETB 2001/2002 30
Press Releases LTB 2001/2002 39

Table 1

Texts are produced out of institutional and societal processes and struggles and are therefore products of contestation which shape the practice and output of those entities implicated in the process of production. In the discursive events examined in this study so far (BF, PR, WBT) there are clear power asymmetries resulting from power being vested in the producer (principal) by virtue of their institutionally established role. In relation to the BTA and RTBs discourse examined in this study, the power asymmetries between the producer and the consumer (tourist or local) of any given discursive event is a result of the encounter between a ‘public’ institution and a private individual. The institution has control over the form and content of any given discursive event, as well as the frequency and distribution of such events. Power asymmetries are present in all types of discourse from individual interaction (conversations) to institutional defined discursive practice where the asymmetries may be associated with the way such institutions are either empowered or constrained by the meanings carried and values carried through its discourse and praxis.

In creating a ‘brand’ for England, the ETC worked closely with other ‘official’ and ‘commercial’ organisations to ensure a consistent image of England. Traces of the power dynamics operating within such relationships can be observed in discursive events produced about such activity – ie, the creation of the ‘brand’ image. Excerpts from ETC WBT (Table 2) illustrates aspects of the power relationships between the ETC, a publicly funded organisation, and those private entities whose remit is to extract surplus capital in the process of production. The text emphasises the needs and wants of the industry rather than any institutional vision of the England ‘brand’. This may to some extent reflect the close proximity between the ETC and the ‘industry’.
ETC WBT England the Brand driven by the support and need of the industry
ETC WBT England the Brand consulted widely with the tourism industry
ETC WBT England the Brand the industry wanted an England marque to 'badge'
ETC WBT England the Brand consulted with over 250 key players in the industry

Table 2

Similarly, but perhaps less obvious structures of power can be identified in and through the institutional praxis of the BTA. During an interview for the current study it was recognised that the BTA had recently identified the individuality of approach of the RTBs to the production of promotional material, as an area of ‘concern’. Subsequently, the BTA have sought to provide a ‘template’ with which they hoped will structure the output of RTBs. In such contexts, intertextuality, if not discourse representation is likely to be of significant influence as the subordinate organisation (in this case the RTB) seeks to function within such regulatory ideas.Lexical choice in discursive events

Taking Simpson’s (1993 :176) definition of ideology as ‘a mosaic of cultural assumptions, political beliefs and institutional practices’, and assuming that ‘texts’ conform to this definition, it is possible to trace the relationship between ideology and OTO through their discursive events. It is widely accepted that the choice of words in any discursive event is not arbitrary, but is influenced by the socio-cultural context within which it is produced. Thus, by examining lexical choice we can, potentially, reveal the underlying ideological stance of the producer (individual/institution) of any given discursive event. Lexical choice in BFs, for example, influence the way heritage ‘attractions’ are mediated to the potential tourist. Table 3 provides examples of lexical choice used to describe the maritime heritage of Bristol and Liverpool. In this way the lexical choice constructively patterns that of which it speaks. Difference in expression carry ideological distinctions and thus differences in representation.The core words (as interpreted by the researcher) in these phrases foreground the industrious nature of English maritime history and heritage. The connection between maritime trade and slavery is contained within a single word ‘darker’. The lexical choice in these phrases can be associated with the ideological position of an ‘official’ institution implicated within dominant political and economic structures, as opposed to that of ‘minority’ groups who may make different lexical choices to mediate the social memory of such phenomenon or events.
BF 161 Bristol built its wealth on maritime trading
BF 164 Bristol a handsome city built on sea trade
BF 161 Liverpool transformed its Albert dock into a concentration of museums
BF 164 Bristol the Industrial Museum reflects Bristol's darker past

Table 3

Early emerging findings

These preliminary findings, based on exploratory quantitative analysis and the critical analysis of OTO discursive events, begin to suggest that there may be a profound mismatch between the reality of England as an ethno-culturally diverse place, and the representation of England as a site of consumption for tourists. The analysis conducted to date has provided useful insights into the projected image of England through tourism. As is evident from the examination of BTA promotional material carried out here, there are major issues to be addressed regarding the representation of ethno-cultural diversity in England through tourism. In representing regions of England with large ethnically diverse populations (for example Birmingham and London), the BTA (often in association with RTBs) continues to privilege representations of the ‘majority’ ethnic group, to the almost complete exclusion of the rich ethno-cultural diversity of these ‘destinations’. As alluded to above, tourism is part of a complex multi-dimensional cultural, economic, historic and social system, therefore it cannot be severed from broader concerns such as social justice, social inclusion and equality. The results of the quantitative analysis of representations of the ‘visible communities’ highlights the need for critical examination of the political and institutional structures and practices responsible for the construction and mediation of England and Englishness in and through tourism. The indicative findings outlined in the ‘context setting’ stage of the study are based on official ‘categories’ of ethnicity predicated on contingent attributes, such as skin colour. Such descriptors of ethnicity, as those adopted in the 1991 census, are superficial and inadequate in many ways, for example, while visual representations of individuals in the categories ‘Black’, ‘Chinese’ ‘South Asian’, and ‘White’ may, to a large extent, be distinguished from each other, there is the absurd assumption that these categories (or their sub-categories in the case of Black, Chinese, and South Asian) represent ethnically homogenous groups. Nevertheless, for the purposes of contextualisation such categories do provide relevant data for the analysis of representations of ethno-cultural diversity in and through the discourse of OTOs.

Textual analysis carried out thus far has provided a number of insights into the production and distribution of OTO discourse, as well as into the underlying power structures and relations. The discursive formations or groups of discursive events emanating from those OTOs included in this study can be seen as operating to generate consistent meanings of tourism in England. Thus, the ‘regime of truth’ (Foucault, 1980: 131) within these OTOs shapes and reflects the dominant notion of what is significant in and through tourism in England, and therefore contributes to the ongoing process of constructing an ideology through which their audiences perceive reality. In this process OTOs naturalise the dominant representations of England and Englishness. Within such practices ‘in-groups’ harness material and symbolic resources in order to construct the image of the majority as homogenous – a fictitious ‘we-group’.


The foregoing analysis of BTA brochures, BTA image resources, travel features, BTA and RTB press releases and web-based texts provides useful data which informs the research topic in a number of ways. Briefly these can be summed up as follows. There has been little disruption of the dominant representation of England in OTO projections over recent decades. The increasing diversity of the English populace cannot be easily detected in either the texts or the images analysed at this stage of the study. In relation to ethno-cultural diversity, there seems to be numerous absences and silences in the projection of England in and through tourism, and this re-emphasis the need for critical analysis of OTOs in England, and of the power structures which sustain such exclusionary practices. This is the focus of the ongoing study.


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