The killing fields of Cambodia: an investigation into motivations of visitors to dark sites

Thomas, L. (2017) The killing fields of Cambodia: an investigation into motivations of visitors to dark sites. Ph.D. thesis, Canterbury Christ Church University.

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A central aim of this study is to establish tourist motivations to visit dark sites such as Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The body of literature that exists around dark tourism published so far agrees there is a general lack of understanding around dark tourism motivations.

The research questions set out in this study ask if tourists who visit such sites view themselves as dark tourists, whether time plays a role in their motivations to visit and what factors inspire them to visit such sites.

The study also considers sub-conscious, psychological and instinctive drivers that exist which may compel tourists to visit and experience dark sites.

The study revealed that tourists who visited Tuol Sleng and/or Choeung Ek did not consider themselves dark tourists, and moreover, did not like to be associated with the terminology. They assumed that to be labelled a dark tourist, their motivations would be inspired by the dark and macabre nature of the sites, or that they would seek enjoyment from their visit. They were keen to stress that this was not the case. They were there to learn and understand what happened and to experience Cambodia properly. Moreover, tourist guidebooks, such as The Lonely Planet heavily advise a visit and act as a powerful driver, as well as trusted word-of-mouth sources.

The study also revealed that chronology heightens curiosity and motivation to visit, but does not act as a motivator in its own right – tourists would have visited anyway. A significant finding of this study reveals that human instinct and psychology plays an important role in human fascination with violent death and, therefore, visits to dark sites. We need to learn and understand what happens to either avoid it happening to us, or to learn how to survive should we find ourselves in the same situation. Visiting such sites is part of our psychological make-up and that these drivers exits in all of us to a greater or lesser degree.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General) > G0149 Travel. Voyages and travels (General) > G0155 Tourism
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > School of Human and Life Sciences
Depositing User: Ms Lorna Thomas
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2019 10:31
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2019 10:31

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