Dances with despots: tourists and the afterlife of statues

Elizabeth Carnegie, Jerzy Kociatkiewicz,*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


In times of liquid modernity, when human lifespan often exceeds that of grand political structures, monumental statues continue to be built and celebrated as symbols of enduring ideological triumphs. In their apparent permanence, these statues often outlive the political systems they were designed to glorify, creating a dilemma of how to exhibit their ambiguous or disgraced presence. In this article, we argue that the heritagization of political figures and pasts is central to the reframing of such narratives and that tourists have a key, if sometimes unwitting, role to play in the shaping of the emerging political imaginaries. Focusing on statue parks in Central and Eastern Europe showcasing communist-era sculptures, we examine strategies of exhibition and tourist responses to the multivalent presence of the monuments of past regimes. We identify four approaches of destruction, delegitimization, decontextualization, and depoliticization, each tied to a particular political moment and rhetorical goal. Examining these shifting modes of preservation, presentation and interpretation, we query the tourists’ role as participants in the processes of stabilization and peace-building, proposing that in times of global re-evaluation of the symbolism of past monuments, these sites can serve to guide much needed analysis and reflection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)584-599
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Issue number2-3
Early online date9 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2022


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