Cartography and dark tourism: aesthetics and authenticity

Kent, A. J. (2016) Cartography and dark tourism: aesthetics and authenticity. In: ATLAS Annual Conference: Tourism, Lifestyles and Locations, 14th-16th September. 2016, Canterbury, Kent, UK.

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With their ability to form impressions of a place ex situ, maps can play a key role in place-branding. Current trends in map theory regard maps less as ontologically secure representations and more as contingent, fleeting, fluid and relational entities (Rosetto, 2012). Instead of passive tools simply designed to assist visitors with orientation, maps are active agents that encouraging engagement with the landscapes they portray. Yet cartographic practice still tends to maintain aesthetically idealised and sanitised portrayals, from community-led parish maps to state-supported initiatives such as topographic mapping of the national landscape. Indeed, maps tend to offer ‘good views’ of their subjects that promote the interests of those behind their construction. The cartographic portrayal of dark landscapes therefore poses an aesthetic paradox where the marketing of places such as Auschwitz-Birkenhau (called ‘the epitome of dark tourism’ by Stone, 2006) is seemingly at odds with the cartographer’s eye, creating an ‘anxiety of representation’. By comparing the cartographic portrayal of a selection of sites associated with wartime Nazi Germany, this study describes and illustrates different approaches to addressing this anxiety of representation. In particular, it explores the extent to which cartographers are embracing aesthetic qualities that could be more aligned to visitor experiences associated with dark tourism. The conclusions find that for some of the sites examined, the cartographic lens is shifting its aesthetic language away from an idealised representation of landscape and towards a different mode of authenticity that seeks to immerse visitors more fully in their engagement with these landscapes. The findings therefore suggest that maps should be used much more centrally as a vehicle for promoting dark tourism and for place-branding in general.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GA Mathematical geography. Cartography > GA0101 Cartography
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > School of Human and Life Sciences
Depositing User: Dr Alexander J. Kent
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2016 13:59
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2016 15:21

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00