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A future face of slum tourism?

Yesterday evening was the viewing of the first episode of “Famous and Rich in The Slums“, a BBC reality television programme for British charity Comic Relief in which 4 celebrities go and live in the slums of Kibera for one week. Rather than merely visiting the celebrities are really “slumming it”. They get an initial £1.60 and have to survive for the next week by working together with local people for local wages, whilst staying overnight in one of the shanties. It is an interesting idea and the show Rich and Famous in the Slumsseems to get fairly positive reviews.

Watching the programme made me wonder whether such total immersion could become a new form of slum tourism for tourists that want to go beyond the normal tours or overnight stays. Notwithstanding ethical as well as health and safety issues, it could provide tourists with a desired more “authentic” experience and break down some of the barriers between local people and tourists.

On the other hand, one has to wonder whether tourists would actually want such an immersed experience. The television show tries to bring across the harshness of life in Kiberia and this may certainly be more than what tourists would like to enjoy during their holidays. In the townships of South Africa overnight stays that allow for more social interaction with local people than the mainstream township tours, receive relatively few visitors.  I would expect the numbers for a total immersion experience to be even far less.

It would appear that the majority of people that visit slums prefer the lack of time and interaction. This makes it easier to distance themselves from the reality around them; observing the other and talking about local life with a tour guide rather than engaging with local people more directly? Nevertheless with slum tourism slowly developing around the world, who can say that such total immersion tours would never arrive?

The show can be watched back on iPlayer until 17 March and the second episode will be aired Thursday 10 March 9 pm on BBC1.

Update: Having watched both episodes now, the series does leave some sort of a bad aftertaste. Particularly the second episode takes a very negative stance upon life in Kibera and does little to show the entrepreneurial and positive aspects of life in this area. This is a shame as it makes the show come across somewhat voyeuristic in my perspective.

“Women are heroes” – documentary on life in slums

I recently found this link regarding a film documentary called “Women are Heroes” made by French street photographer JR. It portraits women and their daily issue in among others Kibera and Rio de Janeiro as well as showing massive photos of women in these areas as a form of art. Although I have not seen the documentary, the trailer is intriguing:

As far as I know the documentary will only be shown in a limited number of places, but it certainly seems very interesting, particularly for those interested in the representation of slums in popular culture and the potential influence on tourism.

Locations of Slum Tourism

Slum Tourism offerings have increased rapidly in recent times. Whereas at the start of the century the vast majority of “slumming” took place in South Africa and Brazil, nowadays different forms of slum tourism can be found all around the world.

The Slum Tourism Network would like to get some idea of the places where slum tourism is exercised and for that we need your help. The plan is to have a set page on where people can see the different places where slum tourism is taking place. If you have been working in or with slum tourism, or know of an area where this is happening, please let us know!

Slumdog Millionaire Symposium

SlumdogSymposium (Poster to the event)

5th June 2010, University of the West of England, Bristol

Slumdog Millionaire

Critical Perspectives on a Global Phenomenon

This one-day symposium will reconsider Danny Boyle’s 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire and provide an opportunity to reflect on the cultural significance and global repercussions of this unexpected and unprecedented film and media phenomenon. The popularity of Slumdog Millionaire is significant not only for the issues it raises about national and international film industries and audiences – its effects can already be traced in a wide variety of commercial contexts, from the growth of ‘slum tourism’ to the work of international children’s charities. Such developments raise serious ethical questions about the impact of popular culture, the politics of representation and the commodification of poverty. This symposium will address the global impact and likely legacy of Slumdog Millionaire in the light of these and other questions.

Presentations by

Dr. Shakuntala Banaji, Media and Communications, London School of Economics

Dr. Vandana Desai, Geography, Royal Holloway London

Dr. Colin McFarlane, Geography, Durham University

Dr. Michael Lawrence, Film Studies, UWE

Dr. Fabian Frenzel, Bristol Business School, UWE

Saturday 5th June 2010

11.00 to 17.00

In Pervasive Media Studios

Anchor Square,
Bristol, BS1 5DB

Open to academics and the public

£8 / £6 (students)

Lunch and refreshments provided

Organised by

Michael Lawrence, Film Studies, UWE

Fabian Frenzel, Bristol Business School, UWE

To reserve your place please email or

Future Book Chapter on Slum Tourism

A book chapter on slum tourism written by Manfred Rolfes, will soon be published. The title of the chapter is:

“Slumming – empirical results and oberservational-theoretical considerations on the backgrounds of township, favela and slum tourism

And it is part of the book ‘Tourist Experience: Contemporary Perspectives“, edited by Richard Sharpley and Philip Stone. The current publication date is September 2010. More information can be found on the Routledge link below: