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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Raising the spectre of race : phantoming and phenomenologies of whiteness in dark tourism Smalley, Keira


This thesis introduces race into the academic conversation around dark tourism, where it has hitherto been overlooked or ignored. It highlights the extent to which phenomenologies of whiteness (following Ahmed, 2007) are supported and facilitated at racialised sites of dark tourism, through methods of ‘phantoming’ (enhancing or falsifying emplaced resonances of memory). Through two case studies I identify two distinct, though related, techniques of site management that accommodate the white body into racialised space - ‘narrative becoming’, and ‘narrative containment’. First, I lay out academic foundations for my fields of study through a discussion of dark tourism literature, highlighting key debates that relate to race - authenticity, morality, commercialisation, ‘otherness’ - but never quite name it. I also discuss psychoanalytical theory on the spectral as an interruption on the present, before outlining my own definition of the phantom as the physical resonances of place-memory. In my case study centred on Prison Escape game in The Netherlands, I theorize ‘narrative becoming’ as a process through which the white tourist self is offered a temporary experience of stereotyped Black criminality. I analyse the branding and marketing of the site to reveal how the prison is abstracted from geographical space, allowing it to become a playground of alternative desire for the white-lensed tourist. In my second case study, the reading of ghosts becomes much more literal. The Myrtles plantation in Louisiana, USA is touted as one of America’s “most haunted homes”. Here I read the site contrapunctually in order to highlight the various ways in which issues of race, white supremacy and anti-Black violence are omitted from the story told through the site’s ghosts. I frame this silencing as ‘narrative containment’, showing how the site’s managers control the narrative in ways that allow them to retain a public image of pure-intentioned, even honourable, heritage preservation. I do not reconceptualise dark tourism away from its association with death and towards racially-charged encounters, but rather argue that tourists, site managers and dark tourism scholars must begin to consider what it means for sites of racialised suffering to be marketed towards a white audience as ‘attraction’.

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