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Dark tourism and the cadaveric carnival: mediating life and death narratives at Gunther von Hagens' Body Worlds

By Philip Stone


Death is universal, yet dying is not. Consequently, within contemporary secularised society, the process of dying has largely been relocated from the familiar environs of the family and community to a back region of medical and death industry professionals. It is argued that this institutional sequestration of death has made modern dying ‘bad’ against a romantic portrayal of a death with dignity, or a ‘good’ death. Moreover, the structural analysis of death reveals issues of ontological security and mortality meaning for the Self. This paper, therefore, adds to that analysis, and specifically examines the construction of mortality meaning within the context of dark tourism – that is, the act of travel to sites of death, disaster or the seemingly macabre. Particularly, the research interrogates the Body Worlds exhibition – a touring attraction of real human corpses – as a reflective space to mediate mortality. In doing so, this paper concludes that dark tourism is a new mediating institution that allows the Self to construct contemporary ontological meanings of mortality and to contemplate both life and death through consumption of the Significant Other Dead

Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1080/13683500.2011.563839
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Provided by: CLoK
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