Positive power: Events as temporary sites of power which “empower” marginalised groups
Purpose: The importance of events for marginalised groups has largely been overlooked within tourism, hospitality and event studies. The purpose of this international study is to address this gap, emphasising the positive outcomes of power relationships rather than the negative, which have traditionally been the focus in event studies. Approach: The study investigated eight events for indigenous and ethnic minority groups, rural women, disabled people and seniors in Australia and New Zealand. Qualitative data was collected via participant observation, reflexive ethnography, semi-structured interviews and in-the-moment conversations. An inductive thematic approach was taken to data analysis. Findings: Eight themes around notions of power and empowerment were identified during the analysis: providing a platform, giving/taking ownership, gaining confidence, empowering with/through knowledge, respect, pride and affirmation, freedom to ‘be’, and resistance. These were then viewed through the lenses of social-structural and psychological empowerment, enabling a deeper understanding of power at/through events. Implications: The paper presents a framework for empowerment that enables event organisers to both understand and deliberately plan for the productive use of power, which can reaffirm important event aims, objectives and values. It can also be used by researchers as a framework through which to identify and assess the contributing elements of empowerment at events, and by local government to guide policymaking around events. Originality/value: This study is the first to highlight best practices for the positive use of power at events that ‘empowers’ marginalised groups. Grounded in empowerment theory, the study offers a new lens to reframe notions of power and provides a theoretical framework that will be of value for both critical event studies researchers, event organisers and policymakers alike.