University of Oulu

Cooper, E., Spinei, M. and Varnajot, A. (2019), "Countering “Arctification”: Dawson City’s “Sourtoe Cocktail”", Journal of Tourism Futures, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 70-82.

Countering “Arctification”: Dawson City’s “Sourtoe Cocktail”

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Author: Cooper, Elizabeth Ann1; Spinei, Michelle2; Varnajot, Alix3
Organizations: 1Department of Culture and Global Studies, Aalborg Universitet, Aalborg, Denmark
2Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland
3Oulun Yliopisto, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.6 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Emerald, 2019
Publish Date: 2020-01-10


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to focus on the Sourtoe Cocktail, a custom in Dawson City, Canada’s Yukon, in which participants drink a shot of alcohol with a dehydrated human toe in it. Springing from a local legend, the thrill-inducing Sourtoe Cocktail has attracted the attention of tourists. The paper reveals insights from this particular case study in order to discuss potential future tourism trends within the Arctic, especially in regard to the development of a sustainable tourism industry. Additionally, it illustrates how local communities can avoid negative effects of “Arctification.”

Design/methodology/approach: The case study is deconstructed through Dean MacCannell’s (1976) framework of sight sacralization. The Sourtoe Cocktail is analyzed based on the five stages of the framework, which helps to reveal the various elements at play at the local level. The framework specifically highlights linkages between society and the Sourtoe Cocktail as a product in order to understand how it became a tourist attraction.

Findings: The use of MacCannell’s sight sacralization framework reveals the intricate relationship of the Sourtoe Cocktail to both the Arctic and the local folklore of the Klondike Gold Rush. In addition, it is argued that the activity can serve as an example of avoiding “Arctification” processes for northern communities.

Originality/value: The originality of the study lies in the application of the sight sacralization framework to an ordinary object — a toe — instead of an object of inherent historical, aesthetic or cultural value. The paper proposes a complementary study to the recommendations provided in the Arctic Tourism in Times of Change: Seasonality report (2019) for the development of sustainable Arctic societies.

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Series: Journal of tourism futures
ISSN: 2055-5911
ISSN-E: 2055-592X
ISSN-L: 2055-5911
Volume: 6
Issue: 1
Pages: 70 - 82
DOI: 10.1108/JTF-01-2019-0008
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 520 Other social sciences
Copyright information: © Elizabeth Ann Cooper, Michelle Spinei and Alix Varnajot. Published in Journal of Tourism Futures. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at