Presentation Title

Beyond Passive Participation: Docent Agency and Slavery in Louisiana Plantation Tours

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Abstract or Description

Studies in the past have overwhelmingly shown how little tour guides in the American South talk about slavery and the enslaved during tours of plantation homes (see for example Eichstedt and Small 2002; Modlin 2008; Modlin et al 2011) but most of this literature fails to directly engage with the docents themselves. This research builds upon this prior work but ultimately diverges in two very important ways: first in this study, the researchers take a different methodological approach and interview docents working at four Louisiana plantation homes directly foregrounding their voices; second, our research suggests that there is a shift occurring as a number of plantations are incorporating slavery into their depictions of the antebellum past. With this shift, some docents are responding. Rather than paint docents as passive participants in the creation of tourists experiences as it relates to slavery at these plantation homes, we advocate alongside others (see for example Ap and Wong 2001; Dahles 2002; Banyai 2010; Baum et al. 2007) for an understanding of the agency of docents in shaping the narrative and tourist experience for those who visit plantation museums in this period of transformation at the plantation home. This research is one component of a larger piece that seeks to unmask the key actors and interactions at the heart of the transformation of racialized southern heritage landscapes within the United States.


American Association of Geographers Annual Conference (AAG)


Tampa, FL