Document Type

Conference Paper


This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only


Other social sciences

Publication Details

Paper presented at the 4th Critical Tourism Studies Conference. 2nd - 5th July, 2011.


As Alderman (2010: 90) has recently written, the potential struggle to determine what conception of the past will prevail constitutes the politics of memory. This paper aims to investigate the politics of memory at play in determining how Dublin’s colonial heritage is constructed and represented to tourists. Dublin’s profile as a tourism destination has grown recently. It attracted 5.4 million visitors in 2009 (Fáilte Ireland 2010). Culture and heritage underpin both its touristic appeal and the city’s official efforts to represent itself as a destination. Much of Dublin’s most iconic built heritage is strongly associated with its development as a colonial capital.

Many decades after independence, contemporary Ireland is a vastly changed place. Yet the process of dealing with colonial heritage in tourism contexts is not unproblematic. This paper begins to unravel both the construction and the representation of the city as a tourism destination to investigate how the city is remembering/forgetting its colonial heritage. Its approach is interpretivist, and methodologically, its efforts focus on one hugely important site: Dublin Castle, the seat of English administration in Ireland for 700 years. Centrally located in a prime tourist area to the south of the city centre Dublin Castle is the 6th most visited fee-paying attraction in the state (Fáilte Ireland 2010). Data are gathered through:

  • In-depth interviewing with key personnel involved in the multiple sites operating as distinct tourist ventures within the Castle
  • Discourse analysis of the Castle’s promotional and informational literature
  • Analysis of the tour guiding narratives offered to tourists.

The findings point to a selective narration of history in various aspects of the Castle’s operation as a tourist attraction. They lend support to the argument that tourism constitutes a mechanism through which places can actively seek to reclaim and recast historically important places of memory.