By Denise Whitehouse
This paper examines the role of the souvenir as a form of vernacular design and its role in shaping, promoting and preserving attitudes that maintain the cultural divide between town and country in Australia. While their role in locating and promoting rural places and sites is an important one, souvenirs also contribute to the pervasive stereotypes and myths that the territory outside of major metropolitan centres is unsophisticated and marginal,known in the national geographic imagination as ‘the bush’. Souvenirs rely on the familiar tropes of national identity such as the stockman, shearer, bushranger and pioneer/settler, however if the dominant narrative presented through tourism is predominantly nostalgic, masculine and retrospective, then it is hardly surprising that the gulf between ‘Sydney and the bush’ continues to permeate the political and cultural landscape in Australia.
This paper will use examples of Australian souvenirs to support the argument that souvenirs while often dismissed as tacky, kitsch and ephemeral, instead deserve critical attention in their role in shaping what Meaghan Morris calls the ‘national image space’ (Morris 1988:166).
Keywords: national identity, tourism, souvenirs