From Religiosity to Traumascape: The Role of Death in Western Cultures

From Religiosity to Traumascape: The Role of Death in Western Cultures

Maximiliano Emanuel Korstanje (University of Palermo, Argentina)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5730-2.ch011
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This chapter theorizes on the role of death's figurations on the Western culture. The authors focus on dark tourism as the sign of a new phenomenon, which remained ignored for many sociologists and anthropologists. While the process of secularization ended the hopes and promises of religion, new forms of consumption emerged. The authors here coin the term Thana Capitalism to denote the obsession of modern society to capture the others suffering, and in so doing, perpetuating their logics of domination and surveillance. This chapter opens the doors towards a much deeper debate ignited by the needs of understanding dark tourism and its connections with religiosity.
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It is tempting to say that dark tourism has posited as one of the most growing segments of tourism industry today (Miles 2002; Friedrich & Johnston 2013; Tang, 2014; Ashworth & Isaac, 2015). This evinces radical changes respecting the classic patterns of holidaymakers practiced by our parents or grandparents for holiday-making (Buda & McIntosh, 2013; Korstanje 2016). Dark tourism, as well as the rise of morbid forms of consumption as slum or war-tourism, has established over the recent years, which captivated the attention of many scholars and policymakers (Lennon & Foley, 1999; Skinner 2012; Stone 2013). As Philip Stone (2012) puts it, as finite agents, we, humans, need to theorize on death imagining our own finitude some later day. Hence dark tourism exhibits an anthropological drive –which is common to all times and culture following Stone- to understand death through “the others”. As this argument is given, it is safe to say that –like religiosity- dark tourism offers versatile explanations to the philosophical quandary of death. Death-spaces cultivate a radical fascination in visitors because, in this way, they are in direct contact with after-life. Quite aside from this, applied-research should follow three different axes. By building conceptual self-explanatory models describes the inscription of death to social imaginary, as well as the social reactions to disasters. Secondly, research gives primary-sourced information that helps policymakers to construct the site. Lastly, the introduction of experience-based models explains the psychological motivations of visitors in engaging with these types of sites (Johnston, 2013).

Nonetheless, scholars are divided at the time of defining what dark tourism means. While some voices have alerted on the dark side of dark tourism, which continues with an old dormant logic of neo-colonialism (Bowman & Pezzullo, 2009; Korstanje 2016; Tzanelli 2016), others appeal to the educational nature of the phenomenon (Cohen 2011), or even emphasizing that dark tourism and heritage-led consumption are inextricably intertwined (Strange & Kempa 2003; Biran, Poria & Oren, 2011; Podoshen 2013; White & Frew 2013). One of the main common argumentations originally given by academicians rests on the fact that medieval pilgrims visited Saint´s tombs and other sacred relics as forms of devotion and religious affiliation. This would certainly validate their earlier assumptions that not only dark tourism seems not a new issue but is enrooted in the heritage of a community, even in Middle Ages (Stone 2012).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Religion: A cultural system dotted by behaviours and beliefs that relates humankind to the supernatural world.

Heritage: It consists in the set of beliefs that form the communal identity.

Traumaescape: This is term coined by Maria Tumarkin to denote spaces of mourning which is culturally replicated and rememorized to appeal emotionality.

Methodologies: This represents the set of methods, beliefs, hypothesis and ideas that help forging analytical instrument to be scientifically validated.

Dark Tourism: This is a subtype of tourism characterized by the consumption of death or the interests for visiting spaces of mass death and disasters.

Ideology: It exhibits the collection of allegories, ideas and beliefs that conform the social ethos. Though ideology took different meanings depending on the sociological wave, Marxists argue that ideology works as a mechanism of social control.

Thana-Capitalism: The term alludes to the rise of a new facet of capitalism, where the others` death and morbid cultural consumptions is the main commodity to exchange.

Globalization: This can be defined as an economic project of social integration among nations.

Death: This is the termination or end of all biological functions. Within philosophy, the concern for death was the epicenter for the rise and expansion of Existentialism.

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