How can the concept of the souvenir explain heritage production and consumption?
thesisposted on 11.10.2018 by Zak Jones
In order to distinguish essays and pre-prints from academic theses, we have a separate category. These are often much longer text based documents than a paper.
This thesis explores the ways in which objects are constructed as meaningful and thus converted into various forms of 'heritage'. Made objects, termed as made artefacts have formed part of the research, these include tea-pots, military caps and bouncy castles, and they comment on, critique and challenge prevalent conceptions and products of heritage. The notion of the souvenir is used to guide the thesis through the various types of object, with their different functions, markets/audiences and institutional locations. The different functions of the souvenir include the generation of nostalgia, the making of treasured experience and the attempt at innocent or simple memorial and documentary. The made artefacts challenge the notion of the innocent or simply commemorative souvenir, showing in a combination of reasoned argument and humorous or satirical form that and how they are in fact doing some very un-innocent work. That work includes the ideological labour of turning a painful and exploitative history into nature, an attractive marketing opportunity and the construction of an idealised past. The thesis addresses the meaning of the souvenir and how it is positioned in and by the heritage industry. This thesis asks how souvenirs produce meaning and values for individuals and institutions and how they are used by the heritage industry in an attempt to make explicit the hidden processes of meaning making and ideological valorisation. It does so by focusing on three concepts - nostalgia, innocence and the 'treasured experience' - utilising two modes of enquiry: first, exegesis and analysis of key concepts and terms (the souvenir, the object, kitsch) via a theoretical framework largely based on the work of Barthes, Baudrillard and Saussure ( connotation, semiology, cultural analysis) ; secondly, through the analysis and interpretation of a series of 'made artefacts' which augment the main discussion and function as 'catalysts'. Adopting a multi-disciplinary approach, it argues that this is a 'political project' in that it seeks to prove that so-called mass-produced souvenirs are ideologically charged commodities and experiences. As a contribution to original knowledge the research uncovers hidden and less obvious tasks that souvenirs perform. These include activities such as supporting class identity, acting as a vehicle for the demonstration of personal and institutional values, identifying individual and group hierarchy, providing social and political persuasions and defining boundaries in terms of taste, appropriateness and discernment. Through three key concepts; nostalgia, innocence and the treasured experience the thesis provides a critical explanation of the function of souvenirs; providing a metaphoric negotiation of the relation between past, present and future, indicating the significance of the role played by the past and the future in the present.
- The Arts, English and Drama