Dark tourism (also black tourism or grief tourism) is tourism involving travel to sites associated with death and tragedy. Thanatourism, derived from the Ancient Greek word thanatos for the personification of death, is associated with dark tourism but refers more specifically to violent death; it is used in fewer contexts than the terms dark tourism and grief tourism. The main draw however to these locations is mostly due to their historical value rather than their associations with death and suffering.
This includes castles and battlefields such as Culloden in Scotland and Bran Castle and Poienari Castle in Romania; sites of disaster, either natural or man made, such as Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan, Chornobyl in Ukraine and the Ground Zero in New York; Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland; prisons now open to the public such as Beaumaris Prison in Anglesey, Wales; and purpose built centers such as the London Dungeon, the Spirit Lake Internment Camp centre (near La Ferme, Quebec) and other sites associated with Canada's first national internment operations. It also includes other sites of human atrocities and genocide, such as the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall in Nanjing and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia.
As a field
Dark Tourism became a field of study in 1996 when the term was coined by Professor John Lennon and Malcolm Foley of Glasgow Caledonian University. Scholars have analyzed both recent and ancient settings which attract visitors and are associated with death. Scholars of the field hope to understand tourist motivation for visiting such locations. Dr. Philip Stone, a senior lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, is another one of the individuals currently studying this field. He has written several journals and given presentations on the subject. He has tried to determine moral and social effects of dark tourism, pointing out how individuals come together in these places associated with grief and death. Stone has also stated how dark tourism represents immorality so that morality may be communicated. In Latin America, Maximiliano E. Korstanje continued the contributions of Stone to expand the current understanding of disasters, mass-death and sanctuaries such as the tragedy of Cromañón where 194 attendants lost their life in a music festival. Dark tourism would be a mechanism of resiliency that helps society in the process of recovery after a disaster or cathastrophe, a form of domesticating death in a secularized world.
Dark tourism has been seen as a form of exploitation. Entrepreneurs may attempt to use the emotional reactions of the visitors to the site to generate profit. Traffic to areas such as "ground zero" in New York City enables commercial activity related to dark tourism. Demarcations, such as signs and historical markers, may remind the dark tourists of the subject of their endeavor and may prompt them to purchase merchandise.
- Heritage, Museums and Galleries: An Introductory Reader, by Gerard Corsane, 2005. Page 266
- Korstanje, M. 2011. "Detaching the elementary forms of Dark Tourism". Anatolia, an international Journal of Tourism and Hospitality Research. Vol 22 (3), pp. 424-427
- Korstanje, M. 2012. "Review of The Discourse of Tragedy : what Cromagnon Represents". Essays in Philosophy, Vol. 13 (1), pp. 392-394. Oregon, USA
- "What is dark tourism?", The Guardian special feature
- Dark Tourism Forum
- Grief tourism blog
- Dark Tourism Ideas in Latin America
- Chernobyl: Unlikely Tourist Spot - slideshow by Life magazine
- Places of interest along Hitlers Atlantic Wall in Denmark and Norway