In the Wild Land in Search of a Story: Dark Tourism

  • Oriana Binik


This chapter is based on 16 interviews with dark tourists and my own dark tourism experience in Venice. The first dimension of the sublime is experienced by tourists in two ways: through contact with death and with something perceived as real and authentic. There are two feeling rules: (1) a considerable amount of time must have passed since the crime occurred and (2) tourists must be genuinely interested in the crime’s ‘narrative’. When these rules are broken, tourists get a guilty transgression high. Dark tourism is commodified by tour organisers by means of case selection and ongoing attempts to generate a scary (but not too scary) crime narrative. Do these emotions create social bonds? It emerges that dark tourists feel part of history and in certain cases, they want to be part of a struggle to affirm their values.


  1. Affuso, O. (2010). Il ‘magazine’ della memoria: i media e il ricordo degli avvenimenti pubblici. Rome: Carocci.Google Scholar
  2. Bauman, Z. (2013). Consuming life. Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  3. Bataille, G. (1988). Attraction and repulsion II: Social structure. In D. Hollier (Ed.), The college of sociology (1937–39) (pp. 113–124). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  4. Becker, E. (2007). The denial of death. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  5. Binik, O. (2016). Il fenomeno del dark tourism nella società contemporanea: una rassegna critica della letteratura. Rassegna Italiana di Sociologia, 57(3), 551–574.Google Scholar
  6. Bowman, M. S., & Pezzullo, P. C. (2009). What’s so ‘dark’ about ‘dark tourism’? Death, tours, and performance. Tourist Studies, 9(3), 187–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bruner, J. S. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Buffington, M. L., & Waldner, E. E. (2012). Defending and De-fencing: Approaches for understanding the social functions of public monuments and memorials. Journal of Social Theory in Art Education, 32(1), 1–13.Google Scholar
  9. Carboni, M. (2003). Il sublime è ora. Saggio sulle estetiche contemporanee. Rome: Castelvecchi.Google Scholar
  10. Carney, P. (2010). Crime, punishment and the force of the photographic spectacle. In K. Hayward (Ed.), Framing crime: Cultural criminology and the image (pp. 17–35). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Chambers, I. (2003). Sulla soglia del mondo. L’altrove dell’Occidente. Rome: Meltemi.Google Scholar
  12. Codeluppi, V. (2003). Il potere del consumo: viaggio nei processi di mercificazione della società. Turin: Bollati Boringhieri.Google Scholar
  13. Cohen, E. (1988). Authenticity and commoditization in tourism. Annals of Tourism Research, 15(3), 371–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. De Certeau, M. (1998). The practice of everyday life: Living and cooking. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  15. Demaria, C. (2012). Il trauma, l’archivio e il testimone: la semiotica, il documentario e la rappresentazione del reale. Bologna: Bononia University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Dery, M. (1999, November 8). Shoah Business: tourists eating sandwiches in a concentration camp. Getting It (A Webzine).Google Scholar
  17. Dobraszczyk, P. (2010). Petrified ruin: Chernobyl, Pripyat and the death of the city. City, 14(4), 370–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Durkheim, E. (2008). The elementary forms of the religious life. New York: Courier Corporation.Google Scholar
  19. Goatcher, J., & Brunsden, V. (2011). Chernobyl and the sublime tourist. Tourist Studies, 11(2), 115–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gotham, K. F. (2002). Marketing Mardi Gras: Commodification, spectacle and the political economy of tourism in New Orleans. Urban Studies, 39(10), 1735–1756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Halbwachs, M. (1992). On collective memory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  22. Hall, S. (Ed.). (1997). Representation: Cultural representations and signifying practices (Vol. 2). London: Sage and Open University.Google Scholar
  23. Hall, S. (2006). Notes on deconstructing ‘the popular’. In J. Storey (Ed.), Cultural theory and popular culture: A reader (pp. 442–453). Athens: University of Georgia Press.Google Scholar
  24. Hayward, K., & Presdee, M. (Eds.). (2010). Framing crime: Cultural criminology and the image. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. Hertz, R. (2013). The pre-eminence of the right hand: A study in religious polarity. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 3(2), 335–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hobsbawm, E., & Ranger, T. (Eds.). (2012). The invention of tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Hochschild, A. R. (1979). Emotion work, feeling rules, and social structure. American Journal of Sociology, 85, 551–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hohenhaus, P. (2013). Commemorating and commodifying the Rwandan genocide: Memorial sites in a politically difficult context. In L. White & E. Frew (Eds.), Dark tourism and place identity (pp. 142–155). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Horne, D. (1984). The great museum: The re-presentation of history. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  30. Huey, L. (2011). Crime behind the glass: Exploring the sublime in crime at the Vienna Kriminalmuseum. Theoretical Criminology, 15(4), 381–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Illouz, E. (2012). Why love hurts: A sociological explanation. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  32. Jamal, T., & Hill, S. (2004). Developing a framework for indicators of authenticity: The place and space of cultural and heritage tourism. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 9(4), 353–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jedlowski, P. (2009). Il racconto come dimora: Heimat e le memorie d’Europa. Turin: Bollati Boringhieri.Google Scholar
  34. Jewkes, Y. (2011). Media & crime. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  35. Katz, J. (1988). Seductions of crime: Moral and sensual attractions in doing evil. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  36. Lee, R. L. (2008). Modernity, mortality and re-enchantment: The death taboo revisited. Sociology, 42(4), 745–759.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lennon, J. J., & Foley, M. (2000). Dark tourism [The attraction of death and disaster]. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  38. MacCannell, D. (1973). Staged authenticity: Arrangements of social space in tourist settings. American Journal of Sociology, 79(3), 589–603.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Maffesoli, M. (1988). Le temps des tribus: le déclin de l’individualisme dans les sociétés de masse. Paris: Librairie des Méridiens.Google Scholar
  40. Maffesoli, M. (1997). Le mystère de la conjonction. Saint Clément de rivière: Fata Morgana.Google Scholar
  41. Marcuse, H. (2013). One-dimensional man: Studies in the ideology of advanced industrial society. London and New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Morales, A. (2013). Turning the negative around. In L. White & E. Frew (Eds.), Dark tourism and place identity: Managing and interpreting dark places (pp. 129–141). Routledge.Google Scholar
  43. Morin, E. (2008). L’esprit du temps. Paris: Armand Colin (Original work published in 1962).Google Scholar
  44. Osbaldiston, N., & Petray, T. (2011). The role of horror and dread in the sacred experience. Tourist Studies, 11(2), 175–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pascal, B. (1910). Thoughts. New York: P.F. Collier & Son.Google Scholar
  46. Presdee, M. (2003). Cultural criminology and the carnival of crime. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rimé, B. (2009). Le partage social des émotions. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rojek, C. (1997). Indexing, dragging and the social construction of tourist sights. In C. Rojek & J. Urry (Eds.), Touring cultures: Transformations of travel and theory (pp. 53–72). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  49. Rojek, C. (1999). Abnormal leisure: Invasive, mephitic and wild forms. Loisir et Société/Society and Leisure, 22(1), 21–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rosati, M. (2008). Suffering and evil in the elementary forms. In W. S. Pickering & M. Rosati (Eds.), Suffering and evil: The Durkheimian legacy (pp. 49–62). Oxford: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  51. Sayer, D. (2010). Who’s afraid of the dead? Archaeology, modernity and the death taboo. World Archaeology, 42(3), 481–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Seaton, A. V. (1996). Guided by the dark: From thanatopsis to thanatourism. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 2(4), 234–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sharpley, R., & Stone, P. R. (2009). The darker side of travel. Bristol: Channel View Publications.Google Scholar
  54. Shondell, M. D., & Gonzalez, C. (2013). When death is the destination: The business of death tourism–despite legal and social implications. International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, 7(3), 293–306.Google Scholar
  55. Shott, S. (1979). Emotion and social life: A symbolic interactionist analysis. American Journal of Sociology, 84(6), 1317–1334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Shusterman, R. (2009). Divertissement et art populaire. Mouvements, 1, 12–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stone, P. (2006). A dark tourism spectrum: Towards a typology of death and macabre related tourist sites, attractions and exhibitions. Tourism: An Interdisciplinary International Journal, 54(2), 145–160.Google Scholar
  58. Stone, P. (2011). Dark tourism and the cadaveric carnival: Mediating life and death narratives at Gunther von Hagens’ body worlds. Current Issues in Tourism, 14(7), 685–701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Stone, P. (2012). Dark tourism and significant other death: Towards a model of mortality mediation. Annals of Tourism Research, 39(3), 1565–1587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stone, P. (2013a). Deviance, dark tourism and ‘dark leisure’: Towards a (re)configuration of morality and the taboo in secular society. In S. Elkington & S. Gammon (Eds.), Contemporary perspectives in leisure: meanings, motives and lifelong learning. Abington, Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  61. Stone, P. (2013b). Dark tourism scholarship: A critical review. International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, 7(3), 307–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Stone, P., & Sharpley, R. (2008). Consuming dark tourism: A thanatological perspective. Annals of Tourism Research, 35(2), 574–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Strange, C., & Kempa, M. (2003). Shades of dark tourism: Alcatraz and Robben Island. Annals of Tourism Research, 30(2), 386–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sturken, M. (2007). Tourists of history: Memory, kitsch, and consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Toussaint, S., & Decrop, A. (2013). The Père-Lachaise Cemetery: Between touristic experience and heterotopic consumption.
  66. Tuan, Y. F. (2013). Romantic geography: In search of the sublime landscape. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  67. Urry, J., & Larsen, J. (2011). The tourist gaze 3.0. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Walter, T. (1991). Modern death: Taboo or not taboo? Sociology, 25(2), 293–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Walter, T. (2009). Dark tourism: Mediating between the dead and the living. In R. Sharpley & P. Stone (Eds.), The darker side of travel: The theory and practice of dark tourism (pp. 39–55). Bristol: Channel.Google Scholar
  70. Wang, N. (1999). Rethinking authenticity in tourism experience. Annals of Tourism Research, 26(2), 349–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Welch, M., & Macuare, M. (2011). Penal tourism in Argentina: Bridging Foucauldian and neo-Durkheimian perspectives. Theoretical Criminology, 15(4), 401–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. West, B. (2010). Dialogical memorialization, international travel and the public sphere: A cultural sociology of commemoration and tourism at the First World WAR Gallipoli Battlefields. Tourist Studies, 10(3), 209–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wright, C. (2017). Natural and social order at Walt Disney World: The functions and contradictions of civilising nature. The Sociological Review, 54(2), 303–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Xie, P. F., & Wall, G. (2008). Authenticating ethnic tourism attractions. In A. Fyall (Ed.), RO managing visitor attractions (pp. 132–147). London and New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Zuckerman, M. (2009). Sensation seeking. In M. R. Leary & R. H. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior (pp. 455–465). New York and London: Guildford Press.Google Scholar
  76. Zuckerman, M. (2014). Sensation seeking (psychology revivals): Beyond the optimal level of arousal. Psychology Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oriana Binik
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Milano-BicoccaMilanItaly

Personalised recommendations