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Dark Tourism: How do we study dark tourism?

This guide will help you start your research on dark tourism.

Dark Tourism

Who studies dark tourism?

Dark tourism was once only studied by academics in tourism or heritage studies. Now, students and researchers from across disciplines explore research questions related to dark tourism (Price, 2017).

Some of the most current research in dark tourism has emerged from the fields of anthropology, architecture, criminology, cultural studies, education, ethics, geography, performance studies, psychology, and sociology, just to name a few (Price, 2017).


What do dark tourism researchers want to find out?

Research questions in dark tourism are as diverse as the researchers who study the phenomenon. Some people study the political nature of tourist experiences, analyze tourist motivations, or explore the influences of different stakeholders (Light, 2017).

Dark tourism is an interdisciplinary topic, and researchers approach the study of it from their own scholarly viewpoints. Some examples of current research questions in dark tourism include:

  • How do cultural and political factors influence memorial design?
  • How does tourism affect children or people who live near dark tourism destinations?
  • How do ghost and prison tours perpetuate narratives of power and control?  (Price, 2017)


According to Philip R. Stone, Executive Director for the Institute for Dark Tourism research at the University of Central Lancashire, dark tourism scholarship should "shine a critical light on how societies deal with and present their dead, and in doing so, offer multidisciplinary discourse on the darker side of travel" (Stone, 2013, p. 315).


Click here to see the reference list for this guide.

Dark Tourism Photos

Visitors at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin

by Glyn Lowe, licensed CC BY 2.0 

Tourists at the Flame of Liberty, used as a memorial for Princess Diana, London

Licensed cc by-SA 2.0

Wreckage from the World Trade Center attack on 9/11, on display at the Newseum in Washington, DC

by smuconlaw, licensed CC BY 2.0 

Visitors at Memorial to November 2015 Terror Attacks in Paris

by Stolbovsky (Own work) licensed CC BY-SA 3.0

Visitors view a memorial at the site of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre

by Bbjeter (Own work) licensed CC BY-SA 3.0 

Skulls of genocide victims on display at Murambi School, Rwanda

public domain, taken during the official visit of U.S. Representative Frank Wolf 

Visitors observe historical reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg

by By S Pakhrin, licensed CC BY 2.0 

Altar at Ntrama Church Memorial

by Scott Chacon, licensed CC BY 2.0