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Morbid Curiosity or damn right Dis-respectful!!!!

Morbid Curiosity or damn right Dis-respectful!!!!
Author: Nadine Buchanan
2 Commentries
This discussion paper is concerning the seminar paper on dark tourism. It will address the key issues in relation to ethics and risky territories surrounding this subject.

Key Words: Dark Tourism, Holocaust, Auswitch-Birkenau, Ethics, Moral, History,

The discussion paper is about the motivations of dark tourism and the ethical issues surrounding it. The focus is on genocide tourism focusing on the Holocaust. Tarlow, (2005, p.48) defines Dark Tourism as, visitations to places where tragedies or historical death have occurred and that continues to impact our lives. Malcolm Foley and Lennon, (1999, p.198) describe it as "the phenomenon which encompasses the presentation and consumption...of real and commoditised death and disaster sites".

The focus of this paper can also be referred to as Genocide tourism which is associated with killing and suffering (Foley and Lennon, 1999). Miles, (2002) suggests that there are different shades of dark tourism and that each dark tourism place fits into a different shade of dark tourism (ibid, p.150). He insists that there is an obvious distinction between dark and darker tourism and that it is clear that the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp is far darker than other sites such as the London dungeons (ibid).

There is much argument about the ethics of dark tourism; some researchers argue that dark tourism is disrespectful to the families and friends of those that suffered. Many researches feel that the sites such as the Holocaust should not be used as tourist attractions. They consider this to be morally wrong because it is exploiting the memories of those that suffered there. Furthermore it is argued that by commercialising these places the authenticity will be lost and it is disrespectful to the families, friends and holocaust survivors (Swarbrooke, 1996, Ritchie et al, 2003, Finkelstein, 2003, Smithy and Duffy, 2003).

However other researcher disagrees and insist that dark tourism is important to education and understanding history. They believe that people should be educated and learn about major disasters such as the Holocaust. They argue that these sites can be the key to helping tourists understand the horrors that occurred at these places. Furthermore they insist that the Holocaust sites can be managed to meet the demands of both the families and friends and the tourists and not be disrespectful (Williams, 2008, Dann, 1977, Munt, 1994).

It is not clear as to the full motivations of dark tourism, however it is suggested that post modern tourism may have a key role in the motivations for dark tourism. Post- modern tourism is the development from mass tourism and package holidays to tourists having the desire to experience new destinations and more diverse places, including ecotourism, heritage and dark tourism (Munt, 1994). Sharpley, (2005) believes that the motivation for dark tourism depends upon the shade of the dark tourism site and how interested and fascinated with death they are. For example the motivations for going to a fun dark tourism attractions such as the London dungeons would be different to the motivations for visiting a concentration camp. The motivator for the fun attraction may be an excursion whereas the motivator for a concentration camp could be education and history (Sharpley, 2005).

In conclusion there are growing concerns and disagreements about the ethics of dark tourism, some researchers think it is morally wrong and these places should not be used as tourist attractions (Swarbrooke, 1996, Ritchie et al, 2003, Finkelstein, 2003, Smithy and Duffy, 2003). Whereas other researcher disagree and believe that people should be educated and learn about the Holocaust. They agree that these sites must be managed in a sensitive manner, but it is important for people to learn about the Holocaust (Williams, 2008, Dann, 1977, Munt, 1994). The motivations for dark tourism is not clear as there are different types of dark tourism site and the motivations for each site will vary, although the new adventurist tourist may be the reason for the growth in dark tourism (Mintel, 2009). There are strong points from both sides of the argument are strong and it seems that in order to please both sides there needs to be a balance of both education for the tourists and sensitivity in relation to the families and friends. It is clear that the growth and demand for dark tourism is increasing and will continue tom do so, which suggests that the biggest issue lies with the managers at these sites. They need to consider both perspectives and ensure that both sides are dealt with, in particular putting the needs and feelings of the families, friends and survivors as first priority above the economic aspects.

Lennon, J. and Foley, M. (2000) Dark Tourism: The Attraction of Death and Disaster. London: Continuum.
Seaton, A. and Lennon, J. (2004) Moral panics, ulterior motives and alterior desires: Thana tourism in the early 21st century. (Eds). New Horizons in Tourism: Strange Experiences and Stranger Practices (pp. 68-82). Wallingford: CABI Publishing.
Sharpley, R. and Stone, P., R. (Eds.) (2009) The Darker Side of Travel. The Theory and Practice of Dark Tourism. Great Britain: Chanel View Publications.

Dark tourism can be caring
Author: Maija Keturi
First of all, it is a well written discussion paper. A question that arises is if all tourism has to be 'light' entertainment. We are surrounded by meaningless 'fun' in our daily lives and that to some extent makes us more passive. It is a law of physics that all particles want to get in 'peace'. There is a Jewish story of a man who went to a party and had all the fun he could have, but when he got home he had to sit down and smoke a cigarette for getting 'fulfilment' before going to sleep. Dark tourism can actually offer a balance to all the pink and passive we are surrounded by on our free time.

I remember when I visited Auschwitz, there was a theme not to forget those that suffered and that what happened. As argued in the conference paper that the museum can be regarded disrespectful for the friends and families of those that suffered, it has to be remembered that Jewish people visiting the site for the sake of their community members who were held inside form a tourist market in Israel. It can be argued that the memories of those who suffered are kept in the memories of us today by sites such as Auschwitz.

It is debatable if there is a need to keep remembering the past, as for example in the UK they do by holding ceremonies for the remembrance of the Second World War. Remembering these events can be seen as a political tool to unify people of the same group in a globalising world.

What happened to the Jewish people when they escaped from Egypt about 3000 years ago is still an issue and celebrated in Jewish festivals like Pesah. Shared past, the survival and the "hope of 2000 years" as mentioned in the Israeli national anthem is what have kept the community together. History such as the holocaust is important in unifying the Jewish people worldwide, even if it keeps them separate from the others. Sites such as the Auschwitz are thus important especially for those whose ancestors have been suffering.

Growing visitor numbers can cause problems for the families and friends who need peace while visiting the site. I agree with the author of the original article that these sites should not try to entertain tourists, but rather help to understand and feel the history.

People have the need to remember. It has been in us to visit graves of our loved ones and the accident points where our loved ones have died. Dark tourism can also be seen as a form of the same behaviour. Visiting these places further gives us the possibility to show that we do still care. Other case is people who go to these places for entertainment.
Scale of darkness - tourist or destination?
Author: Dorota Popowicz
There is a fair point in questioning the motivation of participation in dark tourism. Ethically problematic is the fact the places of historical death and tragedies are commercialized and exploited by tourism industry. That could be truly seen as disrespectful towards the families and friends of those who suffered there. Nadine refers to different shades of dark tourism and proposes a distinction between dark and darker tourism, with the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp reaching the highest levels of darkness. She also refers to the idea that Holocaust sites should not be used as tourist destinations. Similarly, Urry (1995) suggest that heritage tourism is an immoral presentation of human suffering. Therefore, according to those views, the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp should be closed to the general public due to extremely tragic past of the place. However, restricting access to this phenomenal heritage site would be questionable and there are some strong arguments against it.

First of all, individuals who visit commercialized thanatourism destinations, for entertainment and recreational reasons, because of their fascination with death, could easily access a variety of information, photos and videos through channels of communication and means other than an actual physical visit (Lennon and Foley 2000). According to Rojek (1993), postmodern reconstructions of historic tragedies are repeated by audio-visual media for their continued popularity. Therefore, limiting access to the site would not stop their eccentric desires and fascinations but only route them through to different forms of enjoyment in death.

Secondly, families, friends and survivors of macabre events should unquestionably be given an immediate access to sites that they are emotionally connected with. This would be a matter or respect to let them cherish their memories, visit and homage the site. Theoretically, maybe the idea of visiting a place of death seems unethical but cemeteries and war memorials do not seem to get as much resistance as concentration camps do (Stone, 2006). Motivations to visit historically tragic site could be highly developed, complex and sophisticated. Therefore, regardless how painful the history of the place was, the idea of closing it to the general public would be inappropriate. Mentioned by Nadine, education, as well as quest for identity and justice are very important reasons for allowing access to tragic heritage sites. People also approach them to reflect on philosophic existence and religion (Seaton 1996 & 2002). Places like these enable modern societies to learn from history so it is not repeated. If history is not retold and access to heritage sites restricted, they may deteriorate and simply fade away. Tourist memorabilia should be definitely banned and the educational value of visiting historically tragic places far outweighs any disrespect.

Finally, Seaton (1996) realises that thanatourism is behavioural and it works on a continuum of intensity based on two elements. First, whether it is a single motivation or one of many and secondly, the extent to which the interest in death is person-centred or scale-of-death centred. Seaton's concept of thanatourism continuum is therefore defined by the traveller's motives rather than attempting to specify tragic features of the destination.

In conclusion, there is a thin line between dark tourism and moral acceptability. However, maybe the scale of darkness should be assigned to the tourist himself and his motivations rather than to tragic heritage sites which he has chosen to visit.


Rojek, C. (1993) Ways of Escape. Basingstoke: MacMillian. pp: 63 - 136.

Stone, P.R. (2006) A dark tourism spectrum: Towards a typology of death and macabre related tourist sites, attractions and exhibitions. Tourism. 54 (2). pp: 145 - 160.

Seaton, A.V. (1996) From Thanatopsis to Thanatourism: Guided By the Dark. International Journal of Heritage Studies 2. pp: 234-244.