Thanatourism and the commodification of war tourism space in ex-Yugoslavia
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Humanity has a long standing fascination with death and disaster. Although dying has been partially sequestered from many western societies, death itself is the one true anthropological constant, encountered by every society through architecture, literature, language, institutions and many other human practices. Our relationships with death have very unique spatial characteristics, brought to life for this thesis by a phenomenon known as 'thanatourism'. Thanatourism is defined as travel to a site primarily or partially motivated by a desire to encounter death or disaster (Seaton, 1996) and, as a niche tourism practice, it has flourished in recent decades. This growth has variously been attributed to the search for authenticity in tourism, the dedifferentiation of leisure, secularisation, the sequestration of dying from society, and theories of postmodern leisure consumption. This thesis further develops the frameworks used to conceptualise thanatourism by exploring the commodification of war space throughout ex-Yugoslavia. The 1990s Yugoslav War was the largest conflict in Europe post World War Two. The conflict left deep scars on the landscape; casualties numbered approximately 100,000, mass civilian murder and rape occurred and thousands of shells destroyed the major towns, cities and cultural artefacts. Leaders were indicted for genocide and the mass media kept the conflict at the forefront of Western attention for many years. Following the conflict, Yugoslavia disintegrated into seven Republics (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia). Although tourists quickly returned to the war damaged regions, many of the returning tourists seek to encounter the sites associated with the conflict. These battlefields, shell pocked buildings and cemeteries quickly evolved from war scars to tourist attractions. This thesis interrogates the process by which entrepreneurs, policy makers and tourists facilitate the commodification of death and disaster.
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