An auto-ethnography of confronting the transatlantic slavery discourses of Liverpool

Abstract

This study explores the affective worlds of its two authors and our responses to personally significant moments when confronting the transatlantic slavery discourses of Liverpool. Inspired by non-representational thinking and the concept of affective atmosphere, we consider our traditional values and beliefs, rooted in the Chinese philosophical understanding of humanism, and reveal how these conflicted with the encountered slavery discourses and shaped the (non)representations of affective experience in slavery spaces. Our experiences suggest that affective encounters in these slavery spaces appear to represent a highly nuanced, complex and personalised assemblage of sensing, feeling and affecting, and some parts arrive much faster than our thoughts, reflections and rationalisation, but can be easily overlooked in verbal representations. This autoethnography further highlights the significance of visitors’ personal characteristics (identity, gender, bodily capacity, and cultural values), their interaction with multiple-sensory input in the setting and the rhythms of drifting, in shaping affective conflicts and reconciliations at the newly-encountered components, situations and relations. This study also offers practical implications in terms of experience design and the destination management of dark and slavery tourism sites. Our experiences provide novel insights into why and how tourists interact with and make sense of the designed setting and objects around them, which can further inform tourism managers about their visitors’ needs, motivations, desires and expectations. The findings and method of this study support the human-centered approach to dark tourism, suggesting that visitors’ experiences as human beings rather than simply as consumers can inform such design. We should not only consider visitors’ cognitive and emotional involvement in the place but also their embodied and deeper affective responses.

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