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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Postgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Postgraduate Course: The 'Dark Side': Dark Tourism and Difficult Heritages (Online) (PGHC11563)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
Course typeOnline Distance Learning AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores why, when, and how people interact with difficult or traumatic histories as travelling tourists, as heritage visitors, or from the comfort of their own sofas. Through diverse case studies, we will explore what motivates people to visit or engage with sites of historical violence, persecution, death, disease, or disaster; what kinds of behaviour are expected from people visiting these sites (and how they actually behave); and what role historians should play in public understandings of these 'dark' places and histories.
Course description Dark tourism refers to the practice of visiting -- physically, virtually, or imaginatively -- sites associated with, commemorating, and/or documenting difficult histories of violence, death, or disaster. Popular and academic interest in these sites and those who visit them has exploded over the past two decades. This course takes a broad definition of dark tourism to explore case studies ranging from the darker end of the spectrum -- such as sites of genocide perpetration -- through to those places where a more light-hearted engagement with dark pasts is encouraged -- such as family friendly dungeon experiences or the irreverent Horrible Histories series. We will also explore case studies that seem to blur the boundaries between the darker and lighter sides of dark tourism, such as the taking of selfies at memorial sites or the viral video Dancing Auschwitz. The course deals in particular detail with modern and contemporary history, but also incorporates some pertinent examples from earlier periods.

Drawing on a combination of secondary reading, primary sources, and user analysis of dark tourism practices and products, the module seeks to analyse the motivations of those who visit dark tourism sites, asking whether dark tourists are driven more by an ethical desire to bear witness to atrocity or a voyeuristic fascination with the macabre. We will consider what behaviours and understandings the historical professionals who curate and manage difficult heritage places expect visitors to display, and the extent to which users themselves conform with these expectations. We will also pose the question of what makes dark tourism 'dark', what distinguishes a jovial horrible history from an unspeakable horrific history, and whether there is a 'too soon' temporal horizon governing this distinction. In the process, students will also engage with broader questions about how power dynamics and inequalities are manifested in heritage discourses and the role historians should play in public understandings of the past. The Dark Side will develop students' awareness of how history operates outside universities, their ability to engage sensitively and critically with difficult or traumatic histories, and their skills in user analysis and project evaluation. It may be of particular interest to those with an interest in interdisciplinary study and those pursuing careers in heritage, media, or the third sector. Please note that this course deals with potentially distressing material relating to death, disaster, and violence.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Students MUST NOT also be taking The 'Dark Side': Dark Tourism and Difficult Heritages (PGHC11559)
Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 History courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission. As numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Independently critique the literature on dark tourism.
  2. Engage critically and sensitively with difficult or traumatic histories.
  3. Evaluate dark history sites, projects, and products through independent user analysis.
  4. Develop awareness of the challenges associated with representing difficult pasts and managing traumatic places.
  5. Analyse the role of the historian in public understandings of the past.
Reading List
Dann, Graham M. S., and A. V. Seaton. Slavery, Contested Heritage, and Thanatourism. Routledge, 2013.

Frihammar, Mattias, and Helaine Silverman. Heritage of Death: Landscapes of Emotion, Memory and Practice. Routledge, 2017.

Hooper, Glenn, and John J. Lennon. Dark Tourism: Practice and Interpretation. Routledge, 2016.

Lennon, J. John, and Malcolm Foley. Dark Tourism. Continuum, 2000.

Lisle, Debbie. Holidays in the Danger Zone: Entanglements of War and Tourism. University of Minnesota Press, 2016.

McDaniel, Kathryn N. Virtual Dark Tourism: Ghost Roads. Springer, 2018.

Sharpley, Richard, and Philip R. Stone. The Darker Side of Travel: The Theory and Practice of Dark Tourism. Channel view publications, 2009.

Sirisena, Hasanthika. Dark Tourist: Essays. Ohio State University Press, 2021.

Stone, Philip R., Rudi Hartmann, Tony Seaton, Richard Sharpley, and Leanne White. The Palgrave Handbook of Dark Tourism Studies. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2018.

White, Leanne, and Elspeth Frew. Dark Tourism and Place Identity: Managing and Interpreting Dark Places. Routledge, 2013.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Students who take this course will develop the following graduate attributes:

- Capacity to engage with difficult or challenging topics with sensitivity whilst also maintaining a critical analytical stance.
- Skills in project evaluation developed through auto-ethnographic user analysis of dark tourism sites, products, and experiences.
- Awareness of the role of historians in the public sphere and how historians can effectively communicate with and engage non-academic audiences.
- Interdisciplinary fluency and the ability to analyse and work with a variety of different sources and media, including virtual tools, material objects, visual material, artistic products, and literature.

These attributes are pertinent not only to careers in academia but also in heritage, in media, in comms, in journalism, in local government, and in the third sector.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Huw Halstead
Tel: (01316) 506693
Course secretary
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