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Identity in the “Road Racing Capital of the World”

I am pleased to announce the online publication of Identity in the “Road Racing Capital of the World”: heritage, geography and contested spaces by Ray Moore of the University of YorkMatthew Richardson, Manx National Heritage & Claire Corkill, University of YorkThis paper is part of the special “Sport, Heritage, and Tourism” issue of the Journal of Heritage Tourism, available in its entirety this autumn.

From the abstract:

This article explores the complex relationship between sport and landscape and their role in the expression and maintenance of identity. While discussions have typically emphasised the role taken by stadia and sporting venues in the development and expression of sporting and national identities, fewer have considered the role taken by the wider landscape. It is this landscape that provides the context in which many sports are enacted and watched and it is through the embodied actions and experiences that landscape is given added meaning, reinforcing narratives of space that are implicated in the creation and maintenance of national identities. Yet here, unlike stadia or other sporting venues, space is much less regulated; as a result, participants and observers are also implicated in the creation of “counter geographies” that destabilise “official” narratives of space. Here our focus is on the contested landscapes of the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Races; an event where sporting narratives have become materially and conceptually part of the landscape. Through a discussion of these landscapes and their expression in theStaying the Course exhibition curated by Manx National Heritage, we contend that geographies of sport must also reflect on the contested nature of sporting spaces.

My thoughts on the paper, from the forthcoming editorial:

Contestation of heritage meanings are also at the heart of Moore, Richardson and Corkhill’s exploration of the annual Tourist Trophy (or TT) motorcycle race on the Isle of Man. In many ways, the presence of the TT race run quite counter to the rural idyll of the Manx landscape (and, seemingly as well, the island’s tourism) though the race itself has become as much a part of the landscape as thatched cottages. However, the heritage contestation comes from largely from memorialization, and how the event, and the broader image of the island, are perceived. Acknowledgment of sporting feats are already part of the landscape and marked through place names and monuments.  In this, the Manx landscape becomes much like the “wall of honour” at a stadium or the “honoured members” section of a sports museum. Naturally, these sections of the landscape are not incongruent with the island’s identity and appeal. However, the race is infamous for danger and, at times, death, though this history is not often part of the wider race, or island, heritage. Acknowledgement of negative or dark sport heritages is relatively rare, and often only occurs when there is some benefit in presenting negative narratives (Springwood, 1996). As Moore et al argue, the TT Race is a major part of the Island’s tourism and the residents’ identity. However, as residents and tourists confront, or are confronted, by alternate interpretations of the race and its casualties, it will be interesting to determine if, and perhaps how, these narratives will be woven into official heritage narratives.

This paper provides a new and exciting perspective on sport heritage, and I am very pleased that it is a part of the special issue.