Dark Tourism & Mutuality

As Stone and Sharpley observe, dark tourism is, among other things, a means for society to socially neutralize death. Due to the nature of death, that is its being inevitable yet impossible to really know about, society has cultivated a taboo and fear around it. This in turn however, creates a mutually high feeling of intrigue surrounding the topic among members of society.

Furthermore, due to the ambiguousness of what happens to us after death, we all have a yearning to know more and more about it. This is another reason why we flock to sites of dark tourism – we hope to catch some sort of glimpse into the after-world; to see how those who are inflicted cope; and to remind ourselves that death is a natural part of our lives.

Tercier notes that due to images of death and tragedy seen in movies, games, etc., that “We see death, but do not touch it.” Here, Tercier refers to the idea that we are aware of death, even though we do not personally feel it since we see less and less of it with the advancement of medicine and technology. This awareness of death urges us to make trips to dark tourism sites, so that we may attempt to “touch” death in some way.

There are of course other reasons that a person may want to visit a site of dark tourism that Gretzel mentions. These include going for thrill, to show gratefulness, for spiritual reasons, or even for malicious intentions. Others may go to places that they have a personal connection to, to pay their grievance respects or perhaps to observe areas that may be under threat (doomsday tourism). However it seems that the society’s mutual curiosity when it comes to death may be the greatest motivator.

These are feelings that people in our society share since none of us know what may happen once the Grim Reaper knocks on our door. Our curiosity and wanting to know what may happen to us in our lives after death, however, are mainly what draw us to these morbid sites of dark tourism.

Those known as professionals in the Dark Tourism Industry have to be aware of this mutuality, in fact they must share these feelings also. This awareness, along with a wanting to make a profit, is the reason this industry exists and expands as tragedies occur in our society.

3 Responses to “Dark Tourism & Mutuality”

  1. Marion Joppe says:

    Are you sure that your statement “society has cultivated a taboo and fear around it” isn’t a very westernized perspective? While we have to start with understanding our own values and beliefs, we must also recognize that not everyone responds the way we do. For instance, Ulli Gretzel talked about going for walks in the Austrian cemetaries because they tend to be beautiful park-like settings. Would that be acceptable in all cultures?

    • Theresa Wong Ken says:

      Yes, it is a very Westernized perspective; I perhaps should have noted that in the post.

      Maybe walking through cemeteries would be acceptable in other cultures. My own perspective is that I would be impartial to walking through a cemetery … in the middle of the day … and the scenery is pleasant; opposed to the middle of the night if it’s muddy with no landscape.
      So I guess now I’m wondering whether the setting the reason the Austrians take these walks, or if they would they take these walks if the setting was less pleasant?

  2. Marion Joppe says:

    No, it’s definitely because of the setting. In Germany as well cemetaries are parks with people maintaining flower beds over graves and lots and lots of trees. Just google some pictures and you’ll see. Obviously not all of them and not the military ones in Germany, but you’ll get the idea.

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