Dark tourism” is the term used to describe tours and trips to places of misfortune. Travelers want to see and experience places where tragedies have occurred, places associated with death, places of crisis and disaster.
The idea spread via the Netflix series “Dark Tourist.”
Other names for Dark Tourism
The Greek term for “Dark Tourism” is “Thanatourism” or “Thanatourism.” It derives from the name of the Greek god of the dead, Thanatos. Thanatos is also a term used in psychology. There it denotes the death drive and the opposite of Eros.
Another term is “grief tourism.” The English term “grief” means in German: Trauer, Leiden, Schmerz.
In German there are three possible translations:
- Dark tourism
- Gloomy tourism
- Black tourism
- Another expression is: “death tourism”.
Destinations of Dark Tourism / Black Tourism
“Dark Tourists” visit places of death, grief and tragedy. These can be the following places:
- Cemeteries, tombs, resting places, shrines, funeral rituals.
- Church in Sedlec (Hungary) in which the interior was built from human bones.
- Funeral ceremonies in Asia (where corpses are carried around.)
- Gods of the dead
- Voodoo rituals
- Prisons and dungeons
- Catacombs of Paris – This is where the bones of the dead were deposited, piled up and left.
- War tunnels in Sarajevo
- Museums dedicated to death
- Nuclear accidents
- Chernobyl and Prypyat
- Places of genocide, mass graves, war crimes
- Killing Field in Cambodia (The place where the Khmer Rouge killed more than 100,000 people).
- Concentration Camp (Auschwitz)
- Rwanda Genocide
- Battlefields, theaters of war
- Former exclusion zones
- Hiroshima and Nagasaki (The place where atomic bombs were dropped during World War II).
- Places of the First World War
- Places of the Second World War
- Concentration camp
- Disused prisons, mental hospitals, hospitals
- Places of accidents
- Costa Concordia (cruise ship accident)
- Grenfell Tower in London (This burned in 2017, killing 72 people).
- Ground Zero
- Murder Houses
- Places where people were murdered
- JFK Assassination
- Places where Pablo Escobar and the Medellín Cartel were active (This is also called Narco Tourism.)
- Places where murderers lived and were active
- Charles Manson
- Places where serial killers have lived or murdered
- Places of the Terror
- Suicide forest in Japan
- Crime scenes
Arguments for and against Dark Tourism
Dark tourism is the opposite of “normal” tourism, which attracts many to beautiful places in the world. Instead of looking at beaches, the mountains, and ancient cities, Dark Tourists take in the sites of tragedies. Whether this is good or bad, moral or immoral, I guess everyone has to decide for themselves.
Places of tragedy are emotionally stirring and they can give the Dark Tourist an “emotional kick.” The experience can serve to reset one’s sensibilities and sharpen one’s moral sense.
Pro-arguments for Dark Tourism
“Black tourists” purposefully come into contact with death and confront the dark sides of the human psyche. In doing so, they create a connection to the ephemeral that does not seem to exist in our society. They help to remember and work against forgetting. They experience what is only reported.
When “Dark Tourists” open up to the suffering of others, they can become more human.
Dark Tourists should only be welcome if they behave with dignity, decency and respect.
“Dark Tourism” serves a part of the human psyche that is neglected in today’s safe Western world. The part after disorder, chaos and death. Because death is also part of life.
Contra-arguments against dark tourism
“Black tourists” can be onlookers who feast on the suffering of others. They are all about thrill and voyeurism.
When “Dark Tourism” degenerates into “Slum Tourism”, a line should be drawn. “Slum Tourism” means that travelers specifically visit slums to experience misery. Even if Dark Tourism degenerates into disaster tourism, another line should be drawn.
History of the expression “Dark Tourism
The term “Dark Tourism” is said to have been first coined by John Lennon and Malcolm Foley in 1996. The two tourism researchers from Great Britain analyzed the fascination of JFK’s assassination in an essay. Their text, “JFK and dark tourism: A fascination with assassination.”
There is an “Institute of Dark Tourism” at the University of Central Lancashire.