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Lecture 6

SA 316 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Cape Coast Castle, Dark Tourism, Cultural Appropriation

Sociology and Anthropology
Course Code
SA 316
Robert Wyllie

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Week 6
Chapter 5 examines the commodification of various spheres and forms of culture for tourism purposes. It
raises the issues of cultural property rights and cultural appropriation. The deleterious effects of tourism
on cultural performances are considered, using Greenwood’s famous essay on the Basque Alarde as an
example. Alternative views and interpretations are then presented, including Wyllie's study of a popular
Ghanaian festival. Using Rojek’s classification of tourist “escape areas,” we look at “dark tourism,”
“heritage tourism,” “theme parks,” “literary tourism,” and “film/TV tourism.” Finally, we reconsider the value
of the authenticity concept in tourism research, arguing that it is now of limited importance.
The reading by Smith, Macleod and Robertson (Reading 7.1) is another of their clear and concise
summaries of tourism concepts and sub-fields. It touches on most of the important topics and issues
normally dealt with under the cultural tourism umbrella and can be a useful starting point for more detailed
Reading 7.2 by Schramm shows how the meaning of heritage sites can be contested by different groups,
with radically different visions of what these sites mean and how they should be presented. She takes a
tour of Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, a place I have visited on more than one occasion during my time in
that country. This former slave-holding fortress is part of the heritage of many African-American visitors,
as well as of Ghanaians themselves. There are sharp differences in outlook and attitudes between these
two groups, especially with regard to the way in which the slave dungeons are presented to visitors. The
author’s account is intelligent and thoughtful (this is one of the most interesting course readings). Cape
Coast Castle is a United Nations World Heritage Site.
The article by Dunkley, Morgan, and Westwood (Reading 7.3) explores the motivations of tourists visiting
battlefield sites from World War I's Western Front and the meanings these sites have for such tourists.
The authors adopt what they term a “soft interpretive” approach to the subject and identify three main
themes in tourists’ motivations: pilgrimage or remembrance; validation; and an intense interest in
battlefields (the “battlefield bug”). The authors suggest that “dark tourism” can be a misleading term to
describe this kind of tourism, since it has only negative connotations. They prefer the more neutral term,
“thanatourism.” This article is a good example of the kind of research needed in examining heritage sites.
Unlike the authors of the Stirling heritage study discussed in the textbook, these authors engage directly
with visitors in trying to understand their motives and experiences. They also provide a useful review of
the research literature on thanatourism or dark tourism.
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