Performance and Discourse in Tourism: The Narratives Visitor Books Tell

Chaim Noy

In this lecture I take a performance approach to how meaning is created and sustained in and through tourists' actions and behaviors, proposing a rather unusual stage of and for tourists' performances: a visitor book. I argue that visitor books can serve not only as bureaucratic documents where tourists register their visits at various sites and add additional comments. Rather, in my research at a national-military commemoration site in Jerusalem, Israel, I show how, under certain circumstances a visitor book essentially supplies a symbolic space—itself metonymically correlated to the larger symbolic spaces of the site itself and the city of (West) Jerusalem—wherein tourists' meaning-making actions are both produced and registered. In the lecture I first will specify a few of the contextual aspects that serve to institutionally "frame" (Goffman) the visitor book as a stage, and then I will discuss the semiotic consequences that rise when viewing the visitor book thus. A performance view implies that meanings do not lie primarily in the content of the tourists’ expressions, often referred to as 'tourist discourse' or 'tourists language' but in their attributes as performances produced on specific tourist stages with particular material features. In its performative orientation, this lecture brings together recent theoretical advances in tourism research, offering a synergistic combination of the multiple semiotic resources that are available to tourists in general, and specifically to heritage tourists. These semiotic resources include the embodied nature of tourists' practices, the dialectics of mobilities and immobilities in tourism and the materiality of tourists' (con)texts and stages. The lecture builds on and expands recent works on this subject, where multimodal approaches in tourists' research are employed (cf. Noy, 2007, 2008).

Noy, C. (2007). A Narrative Community: Voices of Israeli Backpackers. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
Noy, C. (2008). "Pages as Stages: A Performance Approach to Visitor Books." Annals of Tourism Research, 35(2): 509-528.

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