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Light and Dark Tourism from Montserrat to the Maze Prison: Anthropological Reflections

Dr Jonathan Skinner, Roehampton University

Wednesday 7 May at 5.30 pm

Dark tourism is a newly scripted phenomenon now being applied in the anthropology of tourism. Where does the expression come from, how is it being used, and how does an anthropologist stumble into engaging with it? This paper explores these questions primarily by looking at the changing place and placing of the HMP Maze/Long Kesh – the symbol of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and the setting for the Dirty Protests and hunger strikes and part of zeitgeist film maker Steve McQueen’s ‘Hunger’. It does this by examining the official tours of the site that are unscripted narratives by an explicitly neutral official tour guide. Unlike the general scripting and construction of the tourist’s gaze, the Maze/Long Kesh tours take shape from the visitors themselves, and the memories and recollections of time spent incarcerated there during the Troubles as they are recounted to the tour guide. In this way, the Maze/Long Kesh visit is an ever-emerging ‘non’-tourist activity, one that evolves through the visits. And yet, these nostalgic ‘unscripted’ events, for all their prohibitions on recording and restricted government-approved access, are staged in their authentic and sanitized preservation of the past. This paper examines the current Maze/Long Kesh tour in detail, using this ever-changing event to engage with the theorization of dissonant heritage, to critique the notion of the tourist’s gaze, and to interrogate the dark-light tourism continuum. This ostensibly dark heritage venue is subject to further change as it is  potentially prepared to become a popular open tourist attraction with a set script and charging structure.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked.  To book tickets please go to http://jskinner.eventbrite.co.uk.