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Representation of Cultural heritage on Croatian Tourist Websites


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Lah, Josip. (2016). Representation of Cultural heritage on Croatian Tourist Websites. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Comparative Literature.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij književnosti, izvedbenih umjetnosti, filma i kulture) [mentor Anita, Sujoldžić].

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Tourism has a very important role in the Croatian society, primarily as a source of income for the central government and many local communities. However, it is also important as a cultural phenomenon in which host communities represent themselves to guests and thereby advertise what they consider important for their cultural identity. Cultural heritage has a central role in this process because it is inextricably connected both with tourism, as a symbolic resource for tourist branding and creating an image of a tourist destination, and as a socially prestigious expression of cultural identity. According to the recent theoretical approaches to cultural heritage, heritage is primarily a type of social discourse which aims to naturalise the connection between certain types of heritage and specific cultural values. Stemming from the 19th century nationalist ideology of the European bourgeois, cultural heritage is especially seen as an expression of national cultural identity, which is itself constructed through discursive agency, including that of media representations. In order to legitimise a nation as a political and cultural entity, such discourses are aimed at reducing the intranational differences and at the same time emphasizing the differences between itself and other nations. However, the latter process only takes place in case of nations which are seen as the cultural “Other”, which the nation is striving to discern itself from, while nations and cultures which are recognised as being culturally similar are generally identified with in positive terms. The sample consists of the website of the national tourist board (Hrvatska turistička zajednica – Croatian Tourist Board) as well as the websites of 35 local tourist boards. The analysis itself consists of three main parts. The first is aimed at analysing typologicalcharacteristics of the represented cultural heritage in the sample. The second deals with its origins and the explicit and implicit expression of cultural identification. The final part is a media analysis of the websites in the sample, focusing on the way they are used as a globally popular “new” medium. Empirical results indicate that the representation of cultural heritage in the sample reflects selection strategies, which are driven by purposes other than pure economical ones. Although the context of tourist promotion would indicate a widespread use of cultural heritage as a form of symbolic capital which is in tourism turned into financial capital, results show that heritage resources are not used to their full potential, with the selection strategies favouring those heritage elements which are directly connected with the dominant national discourse of Croatia as a part of the Mediterranean, Central European, Catholic and “Western” cultural circles, with a corresponding negative identification with the Balkan,communist and “Eastern” cultures. This fundamental discursive structure reflects the dominant national myth of Croatia as the bulwark (or antemurale) of Christianity and Europeanness, against the inferior eastern cultures, which are seen as a threat to the unquestionable cultural values of the Western European civilisation. These results by and large confirm the results of previous research on cultural representations in printed tourist brochures in the 2000s (see Rivera 2005 and 2008). However, unlike previous research, which indicated very explicit and verbal cultural identification processes, our results show that the new official narrative of the nation is less explicit in expressing cultural values in terms of the superiority of the Western culture(s) and inferiority of the “East”. This narrative is more heavily coded, using semiotic resources of heritage to express some of the same ideas that were previously expressed in a more direct manner. However, it may be said that the additional level of cultural codes of heritage does not “dull the blade” of the national discourse, but rather supports it through rich symbolism and, indirectly, through the work of the “authorized heritage discourse”. The Croatian heritage discourse thus “authorizes” those cultural elements of heritage that are seen as reflecting the country’s belonging to the Western(Christian and Catholic) European cultural sphere, and at the same time erasing the heritage ofother cultures (and even unwanted parts of the national past itself), thereby significantly reducing the cultural diversity of Croatian cultural heritage. At the same time, the media analysis, which was aimed at analysing the way key characteristics of the “new” media are used in the sample, has shown that just as heritage resources are subject to selection, so is the use of the medium. Only those of its possibilities are used which allow for an efficient communication of visual and textual data, i.e. digitalisation and networked communication,while others such as distribution of production and user participation are significantly neglected or even suppressed. As a result, the media messages are centrally produced and disseminated in a manner akin to the “old”, broadcast media. The purpose of this strategy is to maintain control over the processes of representation and the expression of cultural meanings of Croatian cultural heritage, thereby controlling one of the most powerful means of symbolic identity construction.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: tourism, cultural heritage, representation, national identity, media
Subjects: Comparative literature
Departments: Department of Comparative Literature
Supervisor: Anita, Sujoldžić
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij književnosti, izvedbenih umjetnosti, filma i kulture
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2016 07:54
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2016 07:54

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