In a former post regarding a television programme that involved famous people “living like locals” in the Nairobi slum Kibera for a week I wondered whether this could be a future face of tourism. It turns out a similar experience has already been offered, albeit on a smaller scale.
It is discussed (briefly) in a recent article on domestic slum tourism in North America written by Amanda Grzyb. She gives an example of a “48 hour street retreat” that was offered by a Yoga centre in Toronto. The retreat involved “going into the street without any money and live on the streets for several days… relying on the generosity of the streets to take care of us.” Grzyb recognises this retreat as a form of tourism and discusses it in the context of historical accounts of domestic poverty tourism in North America as well as manifestations of domestic slum tourism in the the current age. In the article she relates domestic slum tourism to societal class boundaries and concludes that “Domestic poverty tourism may or may not involve varying degrees of social conscience, advocacy, and calls for reform, but it is, first and foremost, a commodification of experience that reinforces class boundaries”
The article is part of an academic roundtable discussion on the concept of “Homeless Chic” in the journal “Expositions”. It can be downloaded from the “Expositions” website, or you can follow this direct link to the pdf of the article.
Grzyb, A. (2011) “Homeless Chic” as Domestic Poverty Tourism: Street Retreats, Urban Plunges, and North American Class Boundaries. Expositions, 5 (1), p.pp.55-61.