Festivalisation and modelling the macabre. Proposing a typology for Dark Event Tourism (DET)

Stewart, Hannah and Stone, Philip orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9632-1364 (2022) Festivalisation and modelling the macabre. Proposing a typology for Dark Event Tourism (DET). In: Dark Tourism Research Symposium: Memory, Pilgrimage and the Digital Realm, 5 May 2022, Edinburgh Napier University.

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Society exists within a sensationalised and media-driven market where the historical and cultural implications of death are becoming increasingly diluted. More and more, people are in search of experiences that allow them to indulge in the macabre in a less violent and more socially acceptable way. Existent dark tourism literature frequently references specific destinations or attractions embedded in variations of dark tourism subscriptions. Such places include various forms of tourism including battlefield tourism, slavery-heritage tourism, Holocaust tourism, visitation to sites of manufactured death such as UK Dungeon attractions and visitation to major disaster sites such as Ground Zero, Rwanda and the Cambodian Killing Fields.

Some academics argue the existence of a differentiation between ‘dark’ and ‘darker’ types of tourism, proposing that sites of death are darker than sites associated with death. Seldom mentioned are the pilgrimages made to attend festivals or events of the same dark nature. Festivals and events such as Mexico’s Kots Kaal Pato, Roswell’s UFO Festival and Madagascan mortuary festivals are prolific considerations for the creation of the sub-niche specialty of Dark Tourism – Dark Event Tourism (DET). DET favours the visual and experiential over historicity and is defined as the consumption of periodic events or festivals related to or dominated by the theme of death, tragedy or the macabre, based on any historical timeline (Figure 1).

The purpose of this research, therefore, is to critically examine the anthropology of death and explore how various cultures process death and its meaning through the festivalisation of historic atrocities. As a result, this work will lend itself to the creation of a typology/blueprint for dark events, dark tourism and placemaking based on empirical data collected; it will reflect gradations of perceived ‘darkness’, highlighting a festival’s ability to offer festivalgoers the seductive allure of fantasy, illusion, reflection and consumption of the macabre.

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