World Heritage, Tourism and National Identity: A case study of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The Athenian Acropolis, the cradle of Western civilisation, a popular visitor attraction and the key symbol of Greekness is a world renowned heritage site. Among the myriad symbolic resonances it carries, the Acropolis is also said to symbolise the World Heritage idea (UNESCO, 2006a) and to embody the Greek nation (Yalouri, 2001). This interdisciplinary research, based on [visual] anthropology and [cultural] geography and philosophically underpinned by constructivism, explores the relationships between World Heritage, tourism and national identity for the particular case of the Acropolis. The significance of this research lies in its contribution to understanding the role World Heritage and tourism play in the construction and the consumption of Greekness, and importantly also, in its contribution to methodological developments in tourism studies due to its utilisation of innovative, visual alongside the more traditional research methods. While relying on different media such as text, illustrative still photography, a video clip, and a 26 minute ethnographic documentary to convey its findings, this thesis demonstrates that, in its own distinct way, visitation to the Athenian Acropolis had (and still has) a role to play in the Greek nation building project, while despite its World Heritage status, both producers of tourism materials as well as visitors to the site seemed to still perceive the Acropolis as being mainly about Greekness rather than ‘universality’ and as belonging to and representing Greece rather than the World. These raise important questions about the ‘universal validity’ of UNESCO’s World Heritage idea. Indeed, these findings have made it possible to perceive World Heritage as a project which has essentially failed to create a ‘universal’ or ‘world’ category of heritage, and where, especially for the Athenian Acropolis, the symbol of the World Heritage idea (UNESCO, 2006a), World Heritage can perhaps more appropriately be understood as a synonym for contested heritage.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Edinburgh Napier University
  • Chambers, Donna , Supervisor, External person
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • World Heritage
  • Greekness
  • Tourism
  • Acropolis
  • Visual methods


Dive into the research topics of 'World Heritage, Tourism and National Identity: A case study of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this