The construction of images of people and place: Labelling Liverpool and stereotyping Scousers Philip Boland
School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University, Glamorgan Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff CF10 3WA, United Kingdom Received 23 November 2007; received in revised form 8 September 2008; accepted 10 September 2008 Available online 12 November 2008
On 28th August 1207, King John created the Borough of Liverpool by granting its ﬁrst charter. During the ensuing 800 years Liverpool has experienced a complex and changing social, economic and political history resulting in powerful images of the city and its people. This paper examines the labelling of Liverpool and stereotypes of Scousers. It explains how historical and contemporary events, and their coverage in various arms of the media, construct social and spatial imaginations of the city. This involves a more systematic contribution to the how and why dimensions of negative place imagery and social stereotypes, and enhances our understanding of the processes and issues affecting our interpretations of people and place. The analysis is both historical and contemporaneous in teasing out how previous and current events shape the perceptions of insiders and outsiders. This paper reveals that despite concerted efforts to re-brand Liverpool the city continues to face difﬁcult challenges with ongoing bad publicity and negative place imagery. Ó 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Introduction: images of the city
In an earlier issue of this journal Avraham (2000, p. 369) called for ‘‘additional research on most of the factors that affect cities’ images’’. This paper responds to that invitation through an analysis of constructions of images of Liverpool and stereotypes of Scousers1. How people interpret places is determined not only through personal experience, but also through a variety of processes and information sources (Bridge and Watson, 2003, pp. 7–9, pp. 14–17; Gertner and Kotler, 2004, p. 51; Hubbard and Hall, 1998, p. 21). There are different ways in which images, narratives and discourses of the city are presented and these can change over time (Hall, 2003, pp. 192–196). They may include some or all of the following: literature, radio, television, newspapers, internet, ﬁlm, plays, opera, music
* Tel.: +44 029 2087 5275; fax: +44 029 2087 4845; e-mail: Boland@ Cardiff.ac.uk 1 The most common deﬁnition of a Scouser is someone born in Liverpool or who speaks with the distinctive local accent/dialect. Of course there are dangers of bias and subjectivity when discussing your home town, but the limited personal information drawn upon in this paper is more factual than opinionated.
and photographs. McRobbie and Thornton (1995) refer to the inﬂuential role the media play in ‘constructing meanings’ (p. 561) about people and places, how this affects the public’s mindset and ‘deﬁnes and distorts social issues’ (p. 562). Following the rapid expansion of the various arms of the media (e.g. satellite television and the internet) in recent decades it is important to note that the media are ‘not separate from society’: rather, ‘‘social reality is experienced through language, communication and imagery’’ (p. 570). Avraham (2000, 2004) highlights the mass media as powerful in presenting, constructing and re-constructing images of people and place. Within Britain, Aldridge (2003) analyses the methods used by regional newspapers to create a ‘community of readers’ (p. 496) and the use of ‘attention-grabbing headlines’ (p. 498), while Quinn (2006) discusses the debate on biases within television news. With respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conﬂict, Frosh and Wolfsfeld (2007) examine how places are ‘represented, constructed and imagined’ (p. 108) through the national media and the generation of ‘cultural knowledge’ (p. 113). These issues provide a useful...