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Dark tourism and voyeurism: tourist arrested for “spying” in Iran

Dorina Maria Buda (Senior Lecturer at the Hospitality Business School, Saxion University of Applied Sciences, Deventer, The Netherlands)
Alison Jane McIntosh (Professor in the Tourism and Hospitality Management Department, University of Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand)

International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research

ISSN: 1750-6182

Article publication date: 2 August 2013




The purpose of this paper is to propose voyeurism as one possible lens to analyse the experiential nature of dark tourism in places of socio‐political danger, thus expanding psychoanalytic understandings of those who travel to a “dark” place.


Freud's and Lacan's theories on voyeurism are used to examine the desire to travel to and gaze upon something that is (socially constructed as) forbidden, such as a place that is portrayed as being hostile to international tourists. A qualitative and critical analysis approach is employed to examine one tourist's experience of travelling to Iran and being imprisoned as a result of taking a photograph of what he thought was a sunrise but also pictured pylons near an electrical plant.


The authors' analysis of the experiences of this tourist in Iran reveals that tourism, in its widest sense, can be experienced as “dark” through the consumption and performance of danger. This finding moves beyond the examination of dark tourism merely as “tourist products”, or that frame a particular moment in time, or are merely founded on one's connection to or perception of the site.

Research limitations/implications

Whilst the authors recognise the limitations of the case study approach taken here, and as such, generalisations cannot be inferred from the findings, it is argued that there is merit in exploring critically the motivational and experiential nature of travel to places that may be considered forbidden, dangerous or hostile in an attempt to further understand the concept of dark tourism from a tourist's lived perspective.


As the authors bring voyeurism into the debate on dark tourism, the study analyses the voyeuristic experiences of a dark tourist. In short, the authors argue that the lived and “deviant” experiential nature of tourism itself can be included in the discussion of “dark tourism”.



Buda, D.M. and McIntosh, A.J. (2013), "Dark tourism and voyeurism: tourist arrested for “spying” in Iran", International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 214-226.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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