ã 2001 Sean Gillen. All rights reserved. No part of this text may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.

This work was completed in part-fulfilment of an MA Tourism and Leisure. Lancaster University, UK 2000—1, and is reproduced here strictly for scholarly purposes.


Considerable insight has been developed into both the study of emotion and tourism from diverse academic perspectives, but few studies have attempted to combine the two, or even acknowledged the importance of their integration.  Beginning by summarising some key perspectives that inform the sociological study of emotion, this thesis discusses the relevance of emotional control and repression in social development, and ways in which society has responded to changes in emotional behaviour.  Tourism, it is argued, can provide a suitably emotional environment that is in part, a response to social and commercial progress, as well as reflecting some of society’s deepest emotional needs and concerns.  Underlying the more obvious positive emotions that are associated with tourism, it is argued, are fear and shame, emotions that are perhaps particularly socially significant.  Tourist sights play a part in the mediation of these emotions, whilst also providing the opportunity for apparently hedonistic pursuit.  Emotions, it is argued, have become a commodity to be circulated and moved within and between individuals and cultures.  Drawing on the conception of tourism as ‘escape’, the analysis develops a pluralistic research approach and applies it to the study of two significant and very different tourist attractions.  Themes of ‘fatality’ and fear are explored at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, whilst the Beatles Story exhibition in Liverpool is addressed from the perspective of contemporary pilgrimage. In closing, reflection is made on findings and methodology before proposing potential avenues of future research.


“[An emotion] is a transformation of the world.  When the paths before us become too difficult, or when we cannot see our way, we can no longer put up with such an exacting and difficult world.  All ways are barred and nevertheless we must act.  So then we try to change the world; that is, to live it as though the relations between things and their potentialities were not governed by deterministic processes but by magic”


(Sartre 1962:63)  

(see references)

  “Emotion… is like light: it enables us to see (or make sense) but it is not necessarily seen itself…. [Emotions] subtend and make possible our conscious grip on the world.  Our emotions form part of our point of view on the world; we do not just have them, we exist in and by way of them”


(Crossley 1998:26 –28)


In recent years emotion has captured considerable academic interest of philosophers, psychologists and sociologists.  Although perspectives diverge on fundamental issues, emotion is recognised as a critical component of human existence, acting within and between individuals, as well between individuals and society.  Correspondingly, tourism as a socio-cultural phenomenon has become a major area of study for researchers from similarly diverse traditions.  It is surprising then, that two such important fields have remained almost entirely distinct. 

In tourism, many accounts make oblique reference to the role of emotion, but few focus directly on emotion itself.  One exception is the attention given to the role of emotion in the interpretation and presentation of history and heritage.  On this, Uzzell (1989) makes an ethical argument for the ‘hot’ interpretation of the more disturbing aspects of human history; displays should be personal, affective, and even cathartic, in an attempt to influence thought and behaviour.  Such an approach is applied in the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, which according to Golden offers a ‘lived experience’ that “calls upon emotional involvement and identification” (1996:230).  In contrast, Fowler (1989) claims that it is fraudulent to suggest that feelings can be communicated in such ways, it is a delusion, he argues, that visitors to heritage sights can ever experience anything like the emotions of those portrayed.  Despite this interest, the emotional experience for the tourist remains neglected.  When it is addressed, it is often in terms of understanding motivational behaviour; as a psychological factor that connects the ‘push’ and ‘pull’ elements of destination choice (Goosens 2000), or is located in the post-trip phase of the experience through recollection (Parinello 1996 cited by Ireland and Kivi 1997).  Hence, as Jamal and Hollinshead (2001:67) observe, tourism literature has been heavily influenced by the gaze of the tourist and the surveillance of the tourist industry, using the methodological tools of discourse analysis, critical theory and social constructionism, moreover, “the omission of studies and narratives which locate the situated particularity of ‘body’ and ‘emotion’ in tourism…is a problem which has been noted and addressed by very few scholars” (2001:67).

This thesis therefore argues that the omission of emotion in mainstream tourism analysis is unjustified, and in some small way, it aims to address this omission.  It attempts to demonstrate that emotion is an intrinsic part of the social experience, and therefore of crucial importance in the study of tourism.  Tourist sights, it is argued, reflect the emotional needs of individuals whilst providing a suitably affective environment for the expression of these needs. Not only does tourism move individuals spatially, in providing attractions that circulate and play on feelings the experience of such sights might actually move the tourist in an emotional way. Furthermore, in the same way that the tourist’s gaze is essentially motivated by the desire to sense something that contrasts with the ‘everyday’ (Urry 1990), implicit in this thesis is the idea that tourism can and does provide the opportunity to experience a contrasting emotional landscape, where the familiar self can be felt in an unfamiliar way.  Importantly it is argued that if tourist sights can be seen to provide some kind of function for the tourist, then reflecting on sights and the tourist’s experience of them will perhaps provide something of wider social relevance.

Given the lack of sociological approaches to tourism that actively address emotion, it is perhaps most practical in a thesis of this extent to draw on established theories in tourism, incorporating emotion into their framework.  Not only will this offer novel insights into the nature of tourism, it will also provide a demonstration of how emotions can be integrated into mainstream tourism research.  Several perspectives on tourism lend themselves to this approach.  Prominent here is the conceptualisation of the function of modern leisure and tourism as offering the potential for “momentary escape from the encumbrances and pressures of everyday life” (Rojek 1993:165).  The study of leisure and tourism, it is argued, demands consideration of how people have attempted to capture ‘the elusive and exciting world’ that is just out of their reach, and how they reconcile this world with the ‘monotonous obligations of daily life’ (1993:9).  Rather ironically, Rojek identifies the growing interest in ‘fatal attractions’ in tourism as an example of contemporary ‘escape’ sights  (1993:136).  He goes on to illustrate how ‘Black spots’, ‘heritage sights’, ‘literary landscapes’ and theme parks in many ways reflect a fascination with fatality in an increasingly eclectic and de-differentiated fashion where anything can become an attraction, including graveyards, disaster sights, even places of mythological or fictitious entities such as Sherlock Holmes.  Research presented later in this thesis builds on this, in particular focussing on Britain’s most popular theme park – Blackpool Pleasure Beach – to illustrate the significance of emotion in the experience of such attractions.

Rojek’s analysis in some ways echos the perspective of Cohen (1979).  Here, escape is seen as being motivated by degrees of alienation from meaningful existence, an alienation that might be alleviated through tourism as travel itself becomes a quest for a spiritual centre outside of one’s own culture, or at least a renewal of adherence to it.  For similar reasons tourism has been explained as a response to a disenchantment with modern society that induces a yearning for confirmation of an authentic way of life.  Here, contemporary tourism is thus a modern pilgrimage (MacCannell 1976 42-43), largely devoid of religious components but not necessarily the social and psychological functions that sacred pilgrimage provides.  Accordingly, for Turner and Turner individuals accumulate ‘nagging guilts’, ‘small grievances and disputes’; eventually, “when such a load can no longer be borne, it is time to take to the road as a pilgrim” (1978:7), as such, sacred pilgrimage provides a release from the ‘ingrown ills of home’ and a spiritual reward for relinquishing both the troubles and benefits of ‘ordinary life’. 

It is hardly surprising then, that tourism has been considered analogous to pilgrimage, in that both potentially provide an escape from the ordinary, profane working life, to the ‘sacred’ place of renewal and leisure, as Graburn (1977) argues.  However, whilst drawing on an inherently emotional foundation, that of religion and its meanings, these accounts fail to fully illuminate the affective relationship between contemporary tourism sights and the tourist. The analogy of pilgrimage has therefore not been exploited to its full extent.  By focussing on the experience of the Beatles story exhibition, Liverpool, the second research section therefore develops the potential for the pilgrimage analogy to address this omission, and expands on the functional correlation between the sacred and profane.

In order to frame the research however, it is vital to gain an initial an orientation in the complexities of emotion in social thinking.  Hence, chapter one begins by introducing theoretical perspectives, drawing on the work of Elias, Goffman and Scheff, that demonstrate the significance of emotion in social development.  Central considerations here are the encouragement of emotional restraint, and the reciprocal provision of mechanisms of controlled emotional experience through leisure and tourism, as either an essential release or for mere pleasure to be ‘consumed’.  Building on this broad foundation, a less abstract discussion highlights some important trends in emotional expression, incorporating ideas on the influence of Romanticism, consumption and hedonism, and the potential impact of new technologies. 

The subsequent chapter considers the challenge of investigating emotional experience. Drawing on thinking developed from chapter one, it considers the ways in which emotion is influenced and experienced, concisely combining ideas of embodiment, phenomenology and the influence of discourse.  Most importantly, these ideas are used to inform the selection of appropriate research techniques for the investigation of emotional experience at tourist sights, the accounts of which this chapter precedes.

In summarising the thesis, the most significant observations from the field research are discussed, asserting that some emotions are particularly significant in the lived experience of the sight, as well as for the wider social context.  In reflecting on theory and method, some critical observations are made, with recommendations for possible improvements to the proposed research approach. In conclusion, some significant aspects that have emerged from the research process are re-visited as suggested foci of future research.