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Book Chapter

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Leisure and Death An Anthropological Tour of Risk, Death, and Dying



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University of Colorado Press

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This chapter offers a critical analysis of the burgeoning cottage industry of cyber- and actual Toraja zombie tourism. Various studies have chronicled tourists’ fascination with cadavers, and with touring the purported haunts of the undead (c.f. Light 2009; Linke 2005; Stone 2011a), yet the ways in which new death-oriented leisure zones not only arise but become fetishized remain understudied. This chapter responds to the recent call for new research on the relationship between the media and dark tourism sites (Stone 2011b:327). Data derived from fieldwork in the Toraja highlands of Indonesia and web-based sources demonstrate the role of both the internet and the anthropological imagination in this process. A second theme in this chapter entails examining the often-contradictory emotional dynamics underlying the pursuit of fun and fright by vacationers. Ethnographic studies of the complex emotional terrain entailed in these first-hand encounters remain limited and this chapter contribute to our understanding of the emotional dynamics embodied in touristic pilgrimages to observe the mortuary rituals of another culture. FInally, although this chapter examines the Western voyeuristic fascination with dead (and potentially undead) corpses, my aim is not to fuel sensationalized imagery of another dark place where dark activities are seemingly a part of everyday life. Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Philippe Bourgois’ cautions regarding ‘pornographies of violence’ as captivating yet repelling chronicles of violence that circumvent critical analysis strike me as equally apt for discussions of this particular genre of dark tourism (Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois 2003:1). What I term ‘pornographies of the macabre,’ like pornographies of violence, can reify stigmatized perceptions of subordinated peoples while neglecting to spotlight the “chains of causality…link[ing] structural, political, and symbolic violence…buttress[ing] unequal power relations” (Bourgois 2003:433). Thus, this chapter also examines the cultural “logic” and structural, political and symbolic asymmetries that buttress outsiders’ sensationalized zombie-themed references to Toraja mortuary traditions, references that have lent the Toraja a new kind of global notoriety.




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