The Fromelles Interment 2010: dominant narrative and reflexive thanatourism

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Publication details

Clarke, P & McAuley, A 2016, 'The Fromelles Interment 2010: dominant narrative and reflexive thanatourism', Current Issues in Tourism, vol. 19, no. 11, pp. 1103-1119.

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The heritage and tourism appeal of the First World War (1914–1918) battlefield sites holds similarities with past capital cities’ attractions and the cultural heritage, built structure and commemorative events fostered by government-backed narrative. Governments and associated institutions manage and communicate the ‘dominant narrative’ of official culture that generally concerns moral and emotional aspects of history, myths or legends. On the other hand, the ‘little narrative’ or vernacular attributed to individuals complements and enriches the significance of official narrative and links closely to public memory. Vernacular narrative derives from personal information, family history, diaries and privately held records that eventually become part of the dominant, government narrative. The combination of these narratives contributes to the continually emerging and reassembled discourse of the First World War because it links local and foreign people with one another in seemingly viable and tangible ways. The narrative passed from generations with first-hand experience to the present day intergenerational narrative that enhances the austere facts of history. Battlefield visitors are active consumers of historical events and builders of meaning that generate from a broad spectrum of sources covering government, ancestors and family. Consequently, events such as the Fromelles Interment highlight the impact of planning, promotion and management of specific tourism events by governments, various contributing agencies, the press and the general public. The idea of an interment moves away from thanatourism to the concept of restorative or reflexive nostalgic tourism because visitors related to the relaxed, festive atmosphere of the Fromelles ceremony as well as the dominant narrative behind this unique, singular event of remembrance. The Fromelles story, the creation of a new cemetery and the visitors' insights are unique because such an event is unlikely to be repeated for any other First World War battlefield.