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Thanatourism

 
Author Solivagant
Partaker
#1 | Posted: 11 Oct 2008 04:45 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Having now read more about this subject than at the time of my initial suggestion it appears that any site with "death connections" could be labelled as "Thantouristic" since, somewhere, there is likely to be someone who gets a "thanatouristic kick" out of seeing it - i.e the motivation of a (or a few) tourist(s) can conceivably turn almost any site into a Thanatouristic one! (Just at random I chose an unlikely "thanatouristic WHS" and tried to identify a "thanatouristic motive" for visiting it - I chose Uluru and quickly identified the possibility of visiting places where people had fallen to their deaths! Will the person who keeps a list of such places and gets a kick out of visiting them please step forward!!)

However our WHS "Connection" should obviously only be made where a site has a significant thanatouristic dimension in terms of volume of tourists and general reputation. So, for instance, a tourist who "enjoyed" visiting graveyards/ossuaries etc to ruminate upon/take a degree of fright from (or whatever other psychological motivation other than following pure "historic interest" might have led them there) the meaning, shortness and, futility of existence (!!!) would/could be enjoying a "thanatouristic experience" at each of them - but that should not, ipso facto, lead to each graveyard being identified as a "thanatouristic destination" unless a lot of tourists went there for such reasons! The Ossuary at Avila might meet this criterion ahead of other ossuaries since there would be no reason for the large numbers of visitors it receives unless there were a "thanatouristic" element in their visits. However I have been unable to find Avila quoted in any of the "Dark tourism" Web sites I have accessed - so perhaps it remains an unrecognised thanatouristic gem!

I wonder therefore if something like the following caveat should be added to the Connection intro

"In order to avoid re-listing all those sites connected with "death" which have already been "connected" under another subject (eg Assassinations, Suicides, Catacombs, Cemeteries, Dynastic Burial Places, Hypogea, Mausolea, Ossuaries, Plague Columns and Tumuli) such sites will only be connected to "Thanatourism" where a significant volume of contemporary "thanatouristic interest" can be evidenced"

I have said "Contemporary" interest since there are a number of sites which historically have met the criteria - I think of the paintings of Hell on the walls of the Painted Churches of Moldova. Just imagine the fear of death which they inspired in the medieval congregations gathered outside. We have here a problem similar to that which we identified when trying to define "Erotic" WHS - cultures change and it is difficult to compare across the ages. There is also the problem of what consitutes "Tourism" - perhaps 19th century gentlemen on the Grand Tour visiting the Rome Catacombs can be called "tourists" but not the church congregations of Moldova! In any case it seems better to limit the connection to contemporary tourism?

There is also the problem of what the "gurus" call "hardship tourism" ie places where humans suffered hardship and degradation rather than "Death" per se - Robben Island is often cited, as are "Prisons" generally (and we have a fairly large "Connection" group for this subject). This seems to fit within the generic term of "Dark tourism" but the lack of agreement as to the terminology/taxonomy means that sometimes the word "Thanatourism" is applied as the overarching term for all such activities. Since the word is derived from the Greek "Thanatos" (Personification of Death - Wiki) my inclination is to limit this Connection to locations where "communing with" Death rather than "Hardship" can be identified as a significant touristic motive. Another possibility is to alter the "Connection" to the more generic term "Dark tourism". This is, to me, a less precise and interesting term which also opens up a range of other sorts of "fright tourism" Connections eg places where you can white water raft or bungee jump (eg Victoria Falls). I therefore prefer NOT to dilute the term by extending it beyond "Death". Maybe other "Connections" can be identfied to cover other specific sorts of "Dark Tourism" within WHS boundaries?.

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