`Making Tragic Places?': Dark Tourism, Kitsch and the Commodification of Atrocity

Stone, Philip orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9632-1364 and Grebenar, Alex William (2021) `Making Tragic Places?': Dark Tourism, Kitsch and the Commodification of Atrocity. Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change . ISSN 1476-6825

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/14766825.2021.1960852


Certain kinds of death that have been touristified and packaged as commodities have been referred to as 'dark tourism'. It is here where tragic memories are retailed as kitsch mementos in a society of the spectacle. Whilst death has long been an article of trade, commodification within dark tourism, including kitschification and semiotic appropriation of icons, and its interrelationship with placemaking has been overlooked in the literature. The purpose of our paper, therefore, is to outline the spectacle of atrocity and, in so doing, explore commercialisation of the dead within visitor economies. Drawing upon notions of commodification, placemaking, kitschification and semiotics, we construct an original conceptual model in order to lay a scholarly route map for future empirical research. To provide specific contextualisation, we offer a mini-case study from the 2017 terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert and its subsequent ‘tragic placemaking’ of Manchester, UK. Ultimately, we lay down theoretical foundations upon which future dark tourism commodification and placemaking studies can be located, augmented, and empirically explored.

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