Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies

The Paradox of Conflict Tourism: The Commodification of War, or Conflict Transformation in Practice?

Professor Feargal Cochrane (Director, Conflict Analysis Research Centre, (CARC), University of Kent)

01 December 2015

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The talk was presented by Professor Feargal Cochrane


This paper focuses on the challenges and opportunities that tourism presents for societies emerging out of violent political conflict. This relates in part to the fact that tourism inevitably collides with the legacy of the conflict and frames its narrative, while at the same time providing new resources that are likely to be much needed but also contested. This is all overlaid by the fact that, over time, the conflict itself can become absorbed into a consumable tourist commodity that sanitises the conflict into a form of heritage. The paper examines the nature and role of 'dark tourism' and connects this to debates in conflict studies surrounding post conflict peacebuilding and transformation. Empirically, the paper focuses on the way that Northern Ireland tourism is being woven into a conflict transformation strategy and the challenges this presents in dealing with legacy issues relating to the conflict. Placing the Northern Ireland case within a wider comparative context, the paper argues that tourism can be a vital lifeline for societies ravaged by war but that this has to be designed in a manner that is context-sensitive and aware of its inherent challenges.