Last updated: 02:30 PM ET, Thu October 13 2016

Is Dark Tourism a Lesson in History?

Features & Advice | Janeen Christoff | October 13, 2016

Is Dark Tourism a Lesson in History?

PHOTO: Fukushima prefecture was the site of a devastating nuclear accident. (Photo courtesy Thinkstock) 

On many occasions, we’ve written about disaster tourism from the perspective of it being somewhat akin to checking out the recent wreckage of a tragedy. We have even questioned its safety and merit. But what if dark tourism should really be seen as a lesson in history — one that we presumably don’t want to repeat?

An article in the UK’s Independent asks just that. 

“I would suggest being interested in history is fairly essential: how can you learn from past mistakes if you don’t know about them?” writes Laura Chubb.  

“What’s more likely to make a profound impact; fire you up to care about big things? Someone telling you how terrible the Cambodian genocide was, or seeing the bones of murdered victims peeking through the soil for yourself?” Chubb asks. 

Of course, Chubb doesn’t look through dark tourism’s faults. 

“Do we always learn our lesson? Demonstrably no. But isn’t it important to try?” she points out.

Chubb also says that there need to be guidelines when it comes to visiting these sites. 

READ MORE: Is the Growing Trend of Slum Tourism Inappropriate?  

“Obviously “disaster tourism” needs some rules. Because what we’re absolutely not condoning is “disaster rubber-necking”, or playing Pokemon Go at a Holocaust Museum. As a previous article from The Independent posited, there is a marked difference between confronting and trivializing a tragedy,” she says. 

Timing is also important — as well as perspective.

“And it’s probably not just the attitude you take into disaster tourism that defines it, but the timing, too. You probably wouldn’t call visiting Pompeii a callous move, even though it’s where an entire city and its residents were swallowed by a volcanic eruption in AD 79. But peeking into the houses of Katrina survivors still living with the trauma of what they’ve endured? That lacks sensitivity in a situation that still requires it,” she writes. 

So where do we find that balance? When does something dark and recent in our past turn to history? Read on for more here


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