War-Zone Tourism: Thinking Beyond Voyeurism and Danger
AbstractTourism to active war-zones appears to be growing in popularity. Internet searches on the topic indicate that two main issues about this trend have captured the public imaginary: (1) debates about its voyeuristic aspects, and, (2) concerns about the dangers it presents for tourists. In this commentary I suggest that these two preoccupations in fact distract us from more disconcerting and complex power dynamics at play in war-zone tourism and propose a reframing of the types of public debates and discussions the topic has provoked. Borrowing from the work of Debbie Lisle (2000), I suggest that more pertinent and productive questions to contemplate are why this tourism trend is growing in popularity at this point in history and what subjects are made possible through war-zone tourism encounters? Focussing on the media representations of one U.S. based specialized tour operator called War Zone Tours, I argue that what we ought to be concerned with are the ways in which these touristic practices promote a culture of comfort with militarization and privatization of security services, as well as the demarcation practices between Global North tourists and Global South “locals” that are naturalized and perpetuated through them.
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