21.4.07

dark tourism



i encountered this phrase a couple of weeks back and it's been on my mind ever since. then today i saw it again on word spy. it is defined as: "tourism that involves traveling to places associated with death, destruction, or a horrific event."
a professor named john lennon has co-authored a book titled "dark tourism: the attraction of death and disaster," and he writes:

'Dark tourism' sites are important testaments to the consistent failure of humanity to temper our worst excesses and, managed well, they can help us to learn from the darkest elements of our past. But we have to guard against the voyeuristic and exploitative streak that is evident at so many of them."

this, i think, is very true. there is a troublesome ring to the sentence i found here: "Beaches and theme parks? Forget it - dark tourism is the new way to enjoy yourself."
for though i am just as morbidly curious as the next person, i am vehemently against the commodification of sites of unspeakable atrocity. it betrays a blatant lack in modesty of spirit. i think it is natural for us to be drawn to these spaces, ominous shadows in the body of an eclipse, so long as we exercise restraint as "consumers" of them. there is much to be learned from a selfless tenderness toward the suffering of others, but there is nothing to be gleaned if all we do is make a spectacle of humanity's most monstrous mistakes as another incentive for profit.


image from here.

4 comments:

K said...

When we went to germany a few weeks ago, we went to the concentration camp in Dachau and the criminal museum in Rothenburg, which featured medieval instuments of torture. Personally, those places would never have been on my agenda, but my sis (whom we were visiting there) is really into the history of WWII and medieval times (since she was a little 5 year old she has inexplicably been like this) so off we went. I didn't see her as being sadistic about it, but just interested in every aspect of the times. (We also went to the apothecary museum and some castles, etc.) I learned a few things too and by the end, was glad we went. The Dachau concentration camp was not about voyeurism, but really an attempt to illustrate what happened and try to give enough info not to be exploitative, but so that everyone who goes there understands exactly what went on there. They have left everything that helps the visitor know what happened and have taken away everything that gave any kind of power to the oppressors. While one of the many onsite memorials says "Never again", what I took away from all of it was that it could definitely happen again at any time, as long as the circumstances are lined up. This makes it even more important to have this memorial so that this outcome is documented. If we don't see what is ahead on a certain road, we can't make a left turn away from it. It didn't seem like anyone was there purely out of curiosity. The criminal museum was another matter. A very strange place.

Julie said...

i know... after i posted this i thought i might have over-reacted. i know it's a very slippery and complicated thing, and maybe what i'm really angry at is my own dark-tourist desires, and how some people are in positions to capitalize on those desires by granting me access to something i could have never experienced under normal circumstances.

K said...

I think the impulse to react to people capitalizing on misfortune is totally human. For example, the news constantly talking about someone's misfortune, like a random shooting, when it isn't really pertinent that people hear it again and again seems like capitalizing on misfortune to sell ads and always makes me feel sick. Some politicians capitalize on the misfortunes of 911 to push their agendas through. This seems manipulative and degrading. A place like Dachau might not be an uplifting destination, but is educating in a context that allows people to first, choose to visit (unless your sister makes you go) and secondly leaves the interpretations up to you. Realy it was the same with the criminal museum although there was definitely a sense of novelty there since the time that was being represented (medieval) was so long ago and no restitution is being made to those who were tortured. Dark tourist sites probably range the full spectrum. I would have to say that the intent behind it is the most decisive factor and that is usually very clear from presentation. The tourist site you were reacting to may have had some totally strange intent going on.

tienda-erotica.jimdo.com said...

There's no doubt, the guy is completely right.