Tess Scholfield-Peters


This article explores the notion of empathy through the contemporary lens of social media performativity relating to ‘dark tourism’. Examining Auschwitz as a case study, the article explores the post-Holocaust idea that often this empathy is precarious and accompanied by performed authenticity.

Through analysis, this article focuses on concepts of ‘dark tourism’, vicarious victimhood, conspicuous compassion, and self-representation, all portrayed through Instagram. It argues that ‘pilgrimages’ to dark sites of trauma act not only as memorialisation but as spaces of self-validation and representation.

In the contemporary Western world, the distinction between ‘authentic’ empathy and conspicuous, socially informed performance is blurred as a result of digitisation and increased pressure on the individual to form empathic connections and then post about it online.


Full Text:



Ashworth, GJ 2002 ‘Holocaust Tourism: The Experience of Kraków-Kazimierz’ International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education 11 (4), 363-7

Auschwitz Museum 2019 ‘When you come to @AuschwitzMuseum remember you are at the site where over 1 million people were killed […]’, Twitter, 20 March

at https://twitter.com/AuschwitzMuseum/status/1108337507660451841

(accessed 10 April 2019)

Barthes, R 1981 Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Bartyzel, B and Sawicki, P 2018 Auschwitz Birkenau 2017 Państwowe Muzeum, Oświęcim at http://auschwitz.org/en/museum/museum-reports/ (accessed 5 April 2019)

Dalziel, I 2016 ‘“Romantic Auschwitz”: Examples and Perceptions of Contemporary Visitor Photography at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum’ Holocaust Studies 22 (2-3), 185-207

Wong, Amelia S 2011, ‘Ethical Issues of Social Media in Museums: A Case Study AU, Museum Management and Curatorship 26 (2), 97-112

Goffman, E 1959 ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life: Selections’ in DM Newman and J O'Brien (eds) Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life > Readings California: Pine Forge Press, 120-130

Klüger, R 1996 Von Hoher und Niedriger Literatur Göttinge: Wallstein Verlag

Mitschke, S 2016 ‘The Sacred, the Profane, and the Space in Between: Site-Specific Performance at Auschwitz’ Holocaust Studies 22 (2-3), 228-43

Newlin, AB 2016 ‘Gazing into the Black Mirror: How the Experience of Emplaced Visuality Through Smartphones Fundamentally Changes Both the Self and the Place’ M.A. Thesis The American University of Paris, France, Ann Arbor

Özyürek, E 2018 ‘Rethinking Empathy: Emotions Triggered by the Holocaust Among the Muslim-Minority in Germany’ Anthropological Theory 18 (4), 456-77

Rothe, A 2011 Popular Trauma Culture: Selling the Pain of Others in the Mass Media New Jersey: Rutgers University Press

Van Dijck, J 2008 ‘Digital Photography: Communication, Identity, Memory’ Visual Communication 7 (1), 57-76

West, P 2004 Conspicuous Compassion: Why Sometimes it Really is Cruel to be Kind London: The Institute for the Study of Civil Society (Civitas)

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21153/cinder2019art865


  • There are currently no refbacks.