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Dictionnaire testimonial et mémoriel

Tourism and memory

Tourisme et mémoire
Toerisme en herinnering
Jessica Rapson
p. 177-178

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1Experience of place significantly informs where the past is understood in the present day. When Maurice Halbwachs introduced the notion of collective memory (1925), he noted the way in which social groups are constantly involved in a process of “implacement”; collectives are partly constituted by collaborative experiences of place, thus rendering it a key component of collective memory. Landscapes are frequently perceived to function as archives of human history and experience; this perhaps explains the “pull” of sites of memory, for the act of physical travel can be seen to stand in for something we cannot do: to travel back into the past itself.

2Memory tourism has been of increasing interest to scholars across the social sciences and humanities, producing comprehensive work on the role heritage institutions and commemorative landscapes play in mediating processes of individual and collective memory and identity (Samuel 1994). Considerable scholarship on “Dark Tourism” (Foley & Lennon 2000) examines visits to sites of death, suffering, disaster and violence (although not all types of “dark tourism” or associated scholarship directly concerns either memory or commemoration) and has produced detailed typologies of “dark tourism” practices. Other terms employed include “thanatourism” (Seaton 1996), which places a more explicit focus on the contemplation of death. Contributions from disciplines beyond tourism studies, including anthropology and cultural studies (MacDonald 2008), literary criticism and travel writing (Jones 2007), social and cultural geography (Charlesworth & Addis 2002) and historiography (Gilbert 1999) provide alternative perspectives.

3There is considerable diversity within this field, although tourism to sites related to the Nazi Holocaust has arguably received the most substantial attention (in line with much other work on memory and commemoration in recent decades). Tourism to post-genocide Cambodia and Rwanda are also the subject of increasing scrutiny, and albeit to a lesser extent, to former Yugoslavia and Armenia. However, substantial works on sites of internment, suffering or injustice in, for example, Latin America, South Africa and Northern Ireland, have also appeared in recent years, as have contributions on battlefield and war tourism and sites of nuclear disaster and terrorism. Issues discussed – both in “dark tourism” scholarship and on memory and tourism more generally – include visitor motivation and experiences of authenticity”, and the potential moral and pedagogical value of particular sites.

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Foley, M. & J. J. Lennon, Dark Tourism: The Attraction of Death and Disaster, New York & London: Continuum, 2000.

Gilbert, M., Holocaust Journey: Traveling in Search of the Past, New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Jones, K., Journeys of Remembrance: Memories of the 2nd World War in French and German Literature, 1960-1980, London & Leeds: Legenda, 2007.

MacDonald, S., Difficult Heritage: Negotiating the Nazi Past in Nuremberg and Beyond, London and New York: Routledge, 2009.

Samuel, R., Theatres of Memory: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture, London: Verso, 1994.

Seaton, A.V., ‘Guided by the dark: From thanatopsis to thanatourism’, International Journal of Heritage Studies 2(4), 1996, 234-244.

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Jessica Rapson, « Tourism and memory »Témoigner. Entre histoire et mémoire, 119 | 2014, 177-178.

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Jessica Rapson, « Tourism and memory »Témoigner. Entre histoire et mémoire [En ligne], 119 | 2014, mis en ligne le 01 janvier 2016, consulté le 11 mai 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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Jessica Rapson

King’s College London.

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