Fact and Fiction. Contradicting Rationality and Emotion on UNESCO World Heritage Site

Oona Simolin, University of Helsinki

Western thinking often contradicts emotions and reasoning to each other. Even though the significance of emotions is nowadays recognised or even highlighted in many ways, the dichotomy between emotion and reason is evident in everyday language. Furthermore, in the spirit of Enlightenment, reason is still prioritised to emotion. For instance, in the English language conceptual metaphors illustrate the rational as being something that is up and the emotional as something that is down; metaphors like rise above someone’s emotions or get over one’s emotions may serve as the examples of this (Lakoff & Johnsen 2003).

In the case of heritage management, this may appear as a dichotomy between the experientiality and materiality of the site. The suggested paper analyses interviews of heritage and tourism professionals working in Suomenlinna Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site inscribed on the list in 1991. The relationship between emotion and reason is explored through the analysis of categories and metaphors. The views related to tourism and significance of Suomenlinna are located on a continuum affectionate – rational. The background to analysis is in the concept of authorised heritage discourse which illustrates how professionals’ definitions of heritage are constructed as objective (Smith 2006). As such they are also positioned as something superior to the presumably emotional reactions of communities and visitors.

The proposed illustrates how dualities such as fact/fiction and emotion/rationality are produced and what consequences these conceptualisations have for practical heritage management. The paper contributes to the growing body of research on the meaning of emotions in heritage making and emphasises consequences that epistemological assumption concerning heritage may have for practical management.