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Tripping the light fantastic: exploring the imaginative geographies of Lord of the Rings ‘film tourism’ in New Zealand

FIRNIGL, DANIELLE,ELIZABETH (2009) Tripping the light fantastic: exploring the imaginative geographies of Lord of the Rings ‘film tourism’ in New Zealand. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



From screen image to imagined spaces, the Lord of the Rings film-tourism experience – that is, tourism to New Zealand apparently motivated by the popular film trilogy which was filmed there – has received much anecdotal attention, yet little scholarly examination. In particular, how tourists are affected by the “you’ve seen the movie, now visit the set!” adage, remains under-examined. Whilst sociologies of tourism tend to emphasize the visual, spectatorial and passive nature of mediated forms of tourism, actual experiences of visiting the former film sets tend to challenge such theorizations of the phenomenon. In fact, what we find in New Zealand is a touristic landscape marked only by its absences and virtualities- little remains to show of ‘Middle-earth on earth’, leaving us with the question of what it is that, as tourists, we actually consume, and on what basis the apparently visual causality of cinematic tourism can be sustained. This research thus employs recent scholarship in cultural geography attuned to the more-than-representational and affective realms, in order to build a conceptually novel approach to thinking through ‘the film-tourist’. Rather than starting out from a position of critique, such an approach seeks to explore the ‘operational logics’ of tourist experience, how meaning is made through practices of popular culture consumption and tourism. Through a consideration of how tourists navigate these complex cinematic spaces, we find that visitors – both those who are fans or enthusiasts of The Lord of the Rings, and those who are simply ‘doing a rings thing’ as part of a broader touristic itinerary – engage in a range of animated practices, that demonstrate both an awareness of these multiply-mediated spaces, and an interest not only in ‘walking in the footsteps’ of Frodo and the fellowship, but also in the ‘backstage’ of the films’ production, and the very creation of ‘Middle earth- on earth’ in New Zealand.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:"film tourism", "New Zealand", "Lord of the Rings", "fandom",
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2009
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:04 Jun 2010 16:55

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