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The Gendered Natures of Polar Bear Tourism

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This article offers a critique of nature-based Arctic tourism through a gender-aware analysis of representations associated with polar bear tourism in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. The guiding purpose of our study was to analyze how "nature" is gendered in its construction and presentation through tourism, and to what effect. Our study focused on revealing dominant gendered expectations and understandings (re)produced in the Churchill polar bear tourism promotional landscape. Drawing on a critical discourse analysis of qualitative and visual promotional texts, we show how various representations of polar bear tourism impose hegemonic gender roles onto polar bear bodies, which are emplaced within a conventionally gendered landscape. As the "Polar Bear Capital of the World," Churchill's wildlife viewing industry relies on the (re)creation, dissemination, and maintenance of particular meanings and natures attributed to polar bears, as well as human–polar bear relationships, for economic benefit. This gives rise to questions about how power circulates with respect to Churchill's tourism production practices, gender being one of many axes of identity through which power operates and is interpolated. Ultimately, the article advances literature on gender-aware analyses of tourism and environment, and argues the promotion of gendered natures must be consistently questioned to create space for more equitable tourism practices.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 14, 2018

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  • Tourism, Culture & Communication is international in its scope and will place no restrictions upon the range of cultural identities covered, other than the need to relate to tourism and hospitality. The Journal seeks to provide interdisciplinary perspectives in areas of interest that may branch away from traditionally recognized national and indigenous cultures, for example, cultural attitudes toward the management of tourists with disabilities, gender aspects of tourism, sport tourism, or age-specific tourism.
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