ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints201805.0183.v1
Subject: Arts & Humanities, General Humanities Keywords: death; bodies; human rights; burial; ethics; tourism; heritage; culture; memory
Online: 14 May 2018 (05:32:40 CEST)
In The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains, Thomas Laqueur argues that the work of the dead is carried out through the living and through those who remember, honour, and mourn the dead. Further, he maintains that the brutal or careless disposal of the corpse “is an attack of extreme violence”. To treat the dead body as if it does not matter or as if it were ordinary organic matter would be to deny its humanity. From Laqueur’s point of view it is inferred that the dead are believed to have rights and dignities that are upheld through rituals, practices, and beliefs of the living. Drawing on dark tourism scholarship and cultural memory theory, this paper examines the display of human bones at Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic and the tourist culture that has built up around the site. Primarily, my writing calls into question the commoditization of burial places as a conceivable violation of the human rights of the dead. My research is driven by a number of questions: What is it that draws tourists to burial grounds and how do heritage sites negotiate visitor experiences? What are the ethical boundaries when a final resting place with bodies on display is also marketed as a tourist site? Do the dead have human rights and how are the living responsible for preserving those rights?