Organising and Storytelling: An insight into selected dark tourism sites in the UK and Spain

  • Beatriz Rodriguez

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Visiting sites of death, war, atrocities and other gruesome events is known as ‘dark tourism’. Despite a considerable growth of the literature exploring the visitor experiences in dark tourism sites, little attention has been paid to the narratives and stories conveyed to the visitors of such sites and the way these stories are chosen, developed, delivered and contested through particular experiences in dark tourism sites and beyond. These are the issues this study sought out to find answers for. Specifically, this ethnographic research was conducted from two perspectives: that of the organisations responsible for the sites and that of the observer/researcher. To such aim, ethnographic data collection methods were used, mainly non-participant observations at particular dark tourism sites and semi-structured interviews with key informants (e.g., curators, employees and other groups associated with these places). The main findings of this study are: firstly, that storytelling and stories constitute the essence of visitor experiences and the product that is offered in dark tourism sites. This product -namely, individual stories within and the overall narrative of the dark site carries certain emotions and meanings that are communicated through different narrative techniques and/or artefacts (e.g., tour guides, brochures, and signs). Secondly, engaging visitors mentally and emotionally at dark tourism sites is of upmost importance if dark tourism organisations are to fulfil their aims such as entertainment, commemoration, and education. Last but not least, broader socio-historical contexts of each dark tourism organisation/site shape the sites’ organisational aims as well as the stories, storytelling approach, and the overall narrative each dark site organisation offers to its visitors. Subsequently, the empirical findings of this exploration of six dark tourism cases (three in Spain and three in the UK), which are set against a review of existing literature offer a platform for a theoretical contribution to the study of organisational storytelling in dark tourism sites. In particular, the study found different degrees of narrativisation and especially different extents of control exercised over narrative along Barthes’ Readerly-Writerly dimensions. A model of Dark Tourism Organising and Storytelling Dimensions has been drawn, offering a distillation of the thesis’ contribution. This visual representation can be useful for both researchers and practitioners as it gives an overview of how storytelling and narratives are organised at dark tourism sites, as well as these organising acts’ different underpinnings and dynamics.
Date of Award18 Nov 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorYiannis Gabriel (Supervisor)


  • Dark Tourism, Dark Tourism Sites, Dark Tourism Organisations
  • Organising, Narratives, Stories, Storytelling.

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