Interrogating spaces of and for the dead as ‘alternative space’: cemeteries, corpses and sites of Dark Tourism.

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Abstract

This paper considers spaces associated with death and the dead body as social spaces with an ambiguous character. The experience of Western societies has tended to follow a path of an increased sequestration of death and the dead body over the last two centuries. Linked to this, the study of spaces associated with death, dying and bodily disposal and the dead body itself have been marginalised in most academic disciplines over this period. Such studies have therefore been simultaneously ‘alternative’ within an academic paradigm which largely failed to engage with death and involved a focus on types of spaces which have been considered marginal, liminal or ‘alternative’, such as graveyards, mortuaries, heritage tourism sites commemorating death and disaster, and the dead body itself. However, this paper traces more recent developments in society and academia which would begin to question this labelling of such studies and spaces as alternative, or at least blur the boundaries between mainstream and alternative in this context. Through considering the increased presence of death and the dead body in a range of socio-cultural, economic and political contexts we argue that both studies of, and some spaces of, death, dying and disposal are becoming less ‘alternative’ but remain highly ambiguous nonetheless. This argument is addressed through a specific focus on three key interlinked spaces: cemeteries, corpses and sites of dark tourism.

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