Miss Laura’s Social Club is a restored Victorian brothel that serves as the visitors’ center for Fort Smith, Arkansas. Miss Laura’s reflects the values and power structures of the community in which it exists reinforcing the dominance of privileged white males. This qualitative study analyzed the results of three previous studies about Miss Laura’s—a case study, a social science portraiture study, and an embedded thematic analysis. The primary research question was What is the master narrative of Miss Laura’s Social Club? The original case study consisted of semi-structured interviews with three docents and 16 visitors to the site, four site visits, and a textual analysis of online marketing materials. Using emergent coding the researchers developed three key areas in which they critiqued and contested the narrative of Miss Laura’s: (1) the madams were depicted as feminist figures; (2) the prostitutes were depicted using “Cinderella” imagery; and (3) the narrative explicitly excluded the stories of those who were not privileged and white. Discussion points included the conflict inherent in Miss Laura’s dual roles as a marketing tool and as a museum, the transformative learning the researchers experienced, and the responsibilities of adult educators and museum staff to represent marginalized voices.
Adult Learning, Case Study, Cultural Institutions, Embedded Thematic Analysis, Feminism, Heritage Tourism, Narrative, Portraiture, Transformative Learning
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Recommended APA Citation
Voelkel, M., & Henehan, S. (2016). Hello Bordello: Transformative Learning through Contesting the Master Narrative of the Cathouse. The Qualitative Report, 21(7), 1288-1302. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2016.2473