In search of heterotopia? Visitor motivations to an English Cathedral

Gutic M, J., Caie, E. and Clegg, A. (2010) In search of heterotopia? Visitor motivations to an English Cathedral. International Journal of Tourism Research, 12 (6). pp. 750-760. ISSN 1099-2340

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According to Shackley (2002, after Foucault, 1986), the motivation of most visitors to cathedral is the search for heterotopia, which is defined as a sense of timelessness and spirituality. Shackley goes on to argue that this search for heterotopia is a conscious, even if sometimes not articulated, attempt by visitors to connect to an unchanging and transcendental space that provides spiritual meaning in a life of transient and ephemeral values. Shackley (2002:350) proposes that visitors to cathedrals recognise them as sacred space and are influenced by them, even if they cannot articulate or recognise that effect.

This paper explores the idea that many visitors to sacred sites and cathedrals in particular, are motivated to do so by a search of spirituality, but that this search is acting as a subconscious, unspoken motivation, which may be hidden by more rational motivations such as curiosity, a desire to learn, or an interest in history and architecture. This paper argues that although more than a third of visitors to Chichester Cathedral are motivated by a search for spirituality or heterotopia as described by Shackley (2002), their motivation is often not the result of a conscious decision, but instead appears to be the result of a subconscious motivation. This finding also suggests that a significant proportion of the tourists that, according to Sharpley and Sundaran (2005), would claim to be motivated by curiosity or a desire to learn when visiting sacred or pilgrimage sites (the ‘Tourist trail followers’ and the ‘Practitioners’), may actually be subconsciously seeking some sense of spiritual experience or fulfilment. This proposition is based on a comparison between what visitors to Chichester Cathedral articulated as their primary motivation to visit the site, and those aspects that they found more satisfying from their visit, as well as the adjectives used to describe the Cathedral after their visit. This theory of subconscious motivation is developed from research on place meaning by Young (1999) and on consumer narratives of cathedral visitors by Voase (2007), and suggests that place meanings and personal narratives for cathedrals are socially constructed and attributed to the place according to the visitor’s motivations. In this case, place meaning is acting as a mechanism to create intrinsic benefits that satisfy the visitor’s motivational needs, with this process operating at an individual, subconscious level (Young, 1999; Pearce and Caltabiano, 1983).

Thus, this paper concludes that a significant proportion of the non-religious visitors to cathedrals who argue that their motivations do not include the expectation of finding a sense of spirituality are justifying the benefits derived from visiting these sites by creating place meanings that have a spiritual dimension attached to it. This spiritual dimension arises from the subconscious acceptance of, and the associated behaviour connected to, the sanctity of space that visitors attach to the place.

Item Type: Articles
Uncontrolled Keywords: cathedral; spirituality; visitor motivations; tourism experiences
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General) > G149 Travel. Voyages and travels
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General) > G149 Travel. Voyages and travels > G154 Travel and state. Tourism
Divisions: Academic Areas > Business School
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Jorge Gutic
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2016 08:07
Last Modified: 03 Aug 2017 14:45

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