Representations in UK Witches Tours: Walking Over the Roots of Misogyny
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Dark tourism is still an emerging scholarly subject specialism, which draws upon cross-disciplinary literatures and methodologies to provide deeper critical understandings of the less salubrious aspects of visitor attractions, place-based destinations, and travel and tourism industries. As with any emerging subject, this often means there is scope to develop investigations into more marginalised subjects and topics, as the initial focus is often on mainstream and dominant groups to set the context for further conceptualisations. Although research has been published on dark tourism as it relates to identity and geographies of belonging (e.g. White & Frew, 2013), much of the literature still focuses on disparate case study examples (e.g. Lennon & Foley, 2000; Stone et. al., 2018), which help to define and indicate types of dark tourism in a more generalised way. This research draws upon this body of work to focus more distinctly on issues of gender in dark tourism. Although there is attention surrounding commercial sex tourism (e.g. Carr & Berdychevsky, 2021; Hall & Ryan, 2001), gendered inquiry is an area that the field of dark tourism has barely addressed. Based on feminist approaches, this research explores the gendered experiences of witches tours throughout the UK. Witches tours are a popular tourist attraction in places that once held witch trials and executions. In this chapter, we were interested in investigating the ways in which witches and witchcraft are represented through edutainment to attract and entertain, possibly educate, tourists across Britain. We conducted analysis of online materials associated with the tours (websites and social media) to evaluate the representation of witches, women, the tours, tour participants, and associated gendered narratives, including how these tours are advertised and how so-called witches are represented in order to examine the ways in which the historic persecution of (some) women has been commercialized and sanitized for touristic consumption. Case study examples of the tours were selected by geography to have a representation from different areas of the country as well as the necessity of a social media presence. Independent tours, so ones not associated with bundled entertainment sites, were selected to focus on witches tours as stand-alone experiences more specifically. How we view the past often influences how we see things in the present, and even tourist attractions based loosely on historic events can have an impact on re/constructing and reinforcing gendered narratives. In this chapter, we examine the ways in which witches, and the related dark history of misogyny and violence, are represented in witches tours in Britain.