Saturday, May 26, 2018

Thanatourism: Disaster and Dark Tourism

It is almost taken for granted nowadays that another school, workplace, mall, restaurant, movie, or related site will have a mass shooting incident or major terrorist attack again soon. 

Out of these disasters we have seen the rise of collecting disaster buildings, from elegant replicas made by Boym Designs and Mike Merwine's InFocusTech, to the less exacting ones, as I mentioned recently regarding securing a Waffle House model

For today, I wish to ponder a prediction that mass shootings will lead to a form of thanatourism that includes locations of mass violence. Few in the synchromystism field have examined the rather recent, and yet large movement in this direction. 

People may hesitate going to their local or distant school to visit a shooting site. But we will begin observing folks stopping at Louie's by the Lake at Lake Hefner near Oklahoma City or by Trolley Square Mall in Salt Lake City, in some fashion similar to how thanatourists have sought out the University of Texas tower or how ultrathanatourists beat a path to Pompeii. 

Dates for some thanatourism pilgrimages are important, of course, such as the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in 2018. While the building where he was killed has been torn down, the Ambassador Hotel exists in a high quality replica building by InFocusTech

Here's an overview of thanatourism:

Thanatourism is derived from the ancient Greek word thanatos for the personification of death. (Not to be confused, directly, with the Marvel character Thanos, but you can imagine how creators Mike Friedrich and Jim Starlin came up with that name.)

Disaster tourism is the act of traveling to a disaster area for pleasure, usually out of curiosity.

Disaster Tourism is used for leisure travels to zones whipped by natural disasters or traumatic events known as "traumascapes." 

Dark tourism (also black tourism or grief tourism) has been defined as tourism involving travel to places historically associated with death and tragedy.

Example destinations in the specific form of thanatourism more generally known as "dark tourism" include:
Destinations of dark tourism include castles and battlefields such as Culloden in Scotland and Bran Castle and Poienari Castle in Romania, former prisons such as Beaumaris Prison in Anglesey, Wales, the Jack the Ripper exhibition in the London Dungeon, sites of natural disasters or man made disasters, such as Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan, Chernobyl in Ukraine and the commercial activity at Ground Zero in New York one year after September 11, 2001. It also includes sites of human atrocities and genocide, such as the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall in China, the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia, the sites of the Jeju Uprising in South Korea and the Spirit Lake Internment Camp Centre near La Ferme, Quebec as an example of Canada's internment operations of 1914–1920.
On Bali "death and funeral rites have become commodified for tourism ..., where enterprising businesses begin arranging tourist vans and sell tickets as soon as they hear someone is dying." In the US, visitors can tour the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC "with an identity card which matches their age and gender with that of a name and photo of a real holocaust victim. Against a backdrop of video interpretation portraying killing squads in action, the pseudo holocaust victim enters a personal ID into monitors as they wander around the attraction to discover how their real-life counterpart is faring." 
In late 2017, the online journal Current Issues in Dark Tourism Research was launched. The aim of the online journal is to bring affordable 'dark tourism' scholarship direct to students, researchers, and the media. The journal is unique in that it pays royalty fees to authors and, as a result, is a new model for contemporary academic publishing. Authors and scholars may submit their own related research for publication in the journal. A broad range of 'dark tourism and difficult heritage' research will be available in the journal, in the form of articles, case studies, and commentaries. The editor of the journal is Dr Philip Stone.
Popular Mechanics published a list of "8 Disaster Tourism Sites," by Laura Kiniry, August 30, 2013, "for your next family vacation." They include:

1. Chernobyl Power Plant (site of the radioactive accident, April 26, 1986), in the restricted Chernobyl Exclusion Zone situated in the Ivankiv Raion of northern Kiev Oblast, near Ukraine's border with Belarus.
2. Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst (where the Hindenburg caught fire, May 6, 1937) Lakehurst, New Jersey.
3. Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (where 30 million gallons of oil leaked, March 24, 1989) Bligh Reef, Prince William Sound, Alaska.
4. Chelyabinsk Meteor (where it struck on February 15, 2014), Chelyabinsk, southern Urals; Lake Chebarkul; and Ilmen Reserve, Russia.
5. Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test Site (site of the tests in 1946-1958), Marshall Islands, Pacific Ocean.
6. Hanford Site (built in 1943, decommissioned 1964-1971), Benton County, along the Columbia River, Washington State.
7. Hurricane Katrina (hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005), especially the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans, Louisiana.
8. Pompeii (due to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD), at the base of the volcano, Italy. Popular Mechanics calls it the "mother of all disaster tourism sites."

A couple other examinations of this phenomena include:

"The Disaster Tourist," by Kent Russell, Highline/HuffPost, January 25, 2018, about Otto Warmbier's terrible adventure that ended in his death via North Korea.
"JFK and dark tourism: A fascination with assassination" by Malcolm Foley and J. John Lennon, International Journal of Heritage Studies, 2007, about three JFK assassination sites. 

1 comment:

Metacom said...

Possibly the greatest thanatourism site on earth, the One World Trade Tower center and its strange, square, watered void of remembrance...which tbh resembles the linear site of remembrance in OKC.