Selling the colonial spa town: The contested therapeutic landscapes of Lisdoonvarna and Te Aroha
Foley, Ronan and Wheeler, Abbey and Kearns, Robin (2011) Selling the colonial spa town: The contested therapeutic landscapes of Lisdoonvarna and Te Aroha. Irish Geography .
The spa town is one of the foundational sites in the study of therapeutic landscape. As settings in which health informs the production of place and in which place is shaped by reputational associations with healing, spa towns have distinctive health and historical geographies. Drawing on a comparison between two spa towns, Te Aroha in New Zealand and Lisdoonvarna in Ireland, a number of critical therapeutic landscapes themes are explored. Two themes in particular are studied in empirical depth, the first being the commodification of health and place within common spa town narratives from the mid-nineteenth century to the early- to mid-twentieth century. A second core theme concerns itself with the contested identities of the watering-place, in relation to the relative importance of health over social identities and in framing native inhabitations against wider colonial place productions. In the tangled narratives of both towns’ health histories, we argue there is much to be learned about spatial similarities and variations in a process whereby place is commodified and sold on its reputational therapeutic characteristics. This is a process with local socio-cultural variation but with an additional potential for global-local narratives which moves beyond the spa town to wider watering-place forms.
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