"Sir, I Cannot Entertain You": Tour Guides as Agents of Truth and Transformation at the Whitney Plantation
Semester of Graduation
Master of Arts (MA)
Geography and Anthropology
According to the Louisiana office of tourism, one out of every nine workers in Louisiana relies on the state’s tourism industry for their wages, of which plantation tourism is a growing part (2016). This research examines the experiences of tour guides at the Whitney Plantation. How do tourists’ expectations and concepts of heritage affect the way tour guides do their jobs? What are tour guides’ experiences of being objectified by visitors? How are tour guides’ experiences shaped by race and racialized expectation? Specifically, I examined tour guides at The Whitney Plantation Museum in Wallace, Louisiana. This project drew on participant-observation and in-depth interviews on plantation tours, as described below.
This study, contributes to the multidisciplinary literature on tourism, social memory, and the legacy of slavery in North America. While many studies examine plantations as cultural landscapes few have considered the experiences and perspectives of tour guides themselves. Additionally, few studies in geography & anthropology have addressed plantation tours which focus on enslaved populations. (Alderman, 2016, Small, 2013, Brunner, 1996) Given how few of these sites exist, this is understandable. With growing public interest in historical sites which focus on non-dominant perspectives grows, my research will contribute to a framework for how to best analyze and understand narratives as they are memorialized in heritage sites.
I found that as a community, tour guides strived to change peoples’ perceptions of our nation’s history in such a way that it has a positive impact on society today. Guides employ the use of present day connections to the past, individual tour guiding practices, and highlighting an under-represented truth, as tools to transform visitors’ understandings of our society. Though perhaps intangible, this guide community shares a common hope that museum visitors leave with a more critical knowledge of the realities of enslaved people and an ability to make connections between those realities and our shared experiences in the modern world.
Latham, Sarah, ""Sir, I Cannot Entertain You": Tour Guides as Agents of Truth and Transformation at the Whitney Plantation" (2019). LSU Master's Theses. 4882.