Purpose – Commonly referred to as dark tourism or thanatourism, the act of touristic travel to sites of or sites associated with death and disaster has gained significant attention with media imaginations and academic scholarship. However, despite a growing body of literature on the representation and tourist experience of deathscapes within the visitor economy, dark tourism as a field of study is still very much in its infancy. Moreover, questions remain of the academic origins of the dark tourism concept, as well as its contribution to the broader social scientific study of tourism and death education. Thus, the purpose of this invited review for this Special Issue on dark tourism, is to offer some critical insights into thanatourism scholarship. Design/methodology/approach – This review paper critiques the emergence and current direction of dark tourism scholarship. Findings – The author suggests that dark tourism as an academic field of study is where death education and tourism studies collide and, as such, can offer potentially fruitful research avenues within the broad realms of thanatology. Secondly, the author outlines how dark tourism as a conceptual typology has been subject to a sustained marketization process within academia over the past decade or so. Consequently, dark tourism is now a research brand in which scholars can locate a diverse range of death‐related and tourist experience studies. Finally, the author argues that the study of dark tourism is not simply a fascination with death or the macabre, but a multi‐disciplinary academic lens through which to scrutinise fundamental interrelationships of the contemporary commodification of death with the cultural condition of society. Originality/value – This review paper scrutinises dark tourism scholarship and, subsequently, offers original insights into the potential role dark tourism may play in the public representation of death, as well as highlighting broader interrelationships dark tourism has with research into the social reality of death and the significant Other dead.
International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 2, 2013
Keywords: Tourism; Death; Research work; Education; Dark tourism; Scholarship; Thanatology; Visitor economy
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