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New book on slum tourism out now! Touring Poverty by Bianca Freire-Medeiros

 

Yesterday a new book on slum tourism by one of the leading scholars of the subject, Bianca Freire-Medeiros was published. The book called “Touring Poverty” focuses on tourism in Rocinha, the most famous slum tourism destination in Latin America. It is a striking account and certainly a worthy read. You can find more information in the press release below

 

Touring Poverty (Routledge Advances in Sociology)

http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415596541/

 

Touring Poverty addresses a highly controversial practice: the transformation of impoverished neighborhoods into valued attractions for international tourists. In the megacities of the global South, selected and idealized aspects of poverty are being turned into a tourist commodity for consumption.

The book takes the reader on a journey through Rocinha, a neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro which is advertised as “the largest favela in Latin America.” Bianca Freire-Medeiros presents interviews with tour operators, guides, tourists and dwellers to explore the vital questions raised by this kind of tourism. How and why do diverse social actors and institutions orchestrate, perform and consume touristic poverty? In the context of globalization and neoliberalism, what are the politics of selling and buying the social experience of cities, cultures and peoples?

With a full and sensitive exploration of the ethical debates surrounding the ‘saleof emotions’ elicited by the fi rst-hand contemplation of poverty, Touring Poverty is an innovative book that provokes the reader to think about the role played by tourism—and our role as tourists—within a context of growing poverty. It will be of interest to students of sociology, anthropology, ethnography and methodology, urban studies, tourism studies, mobility studies, development studies, politics and international relations.

Bianca Freire-Medeiros is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the Center for Research and Documentation on Brazilian Contemporary History (CPDOC) at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She was a Research Fellow at the Center for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe) at Lancaster University.

PREFACE by Licia do Prado Valladares (Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Lille 1 – France and Associate Researcher at IESP in Rio de Janeiro – Brazil)


Favela Chic

Yesterday I discussed a paper by Derya Özkan which briefly critiqued slum tourism. In the paper she mentions the blog “Favela Chic: The Formal Informal” by Adrianna Navarro Sertich. This blog  focuses primarily on the informal city as such. However, as she also discusses the current fascination the North has with informality and “favelas”, it does contain interesting posts for those interested in slum tourism as well and is worth a look.

“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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvcKq4HcRAM

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.

Exploring the local social impacts of tourism

Although still in its infancy, an increasing amount of work is done on the ethical dimensions of slum tourism as well as the way it is experienced by tourists. An aspect of slum tourism that has received much less attention  is the perception local host communities to tourism. However,  it would seem that we are missing a vital part of the puzzle with regards to slum tourism if we do not look at local resident’s perspectives.Thesis front

A member of the slum tourism network, Rita Duarte, recently finished her MSc thesis on this very subject for the Favelas in Brazil. Interestingly, she did not only look at the most popular tourist favela (Rocinha), but also at the lesser known Pereira da Silva. In her exploratory study, she uses a transmodern perspective and finds that residents on the whole have a positive attitude towards tourists. They view it as an opportunity to be seen in a more positive light than is normally portrayed in media. They are critical critical however, on the ways in which tourism is performed. Particularly in Rocinha imbalanced power relations between external and internal actors could be observed. Duarte argues that local acceptance and control over the development of tourist activities is necessary to improve the social representation of favela residents.

The thesis is an interesting read and sheds further light upon the complexity of favela tourism and the perspective of local residents. With this in mind, it would have been interesting to see more about conflicting interests and ideas witin the communities and between local community members, particularly in Pereira da Silva. However, as Duarte rightfully says the time and scope of a thesis is limited and there will inevitably be gaps when doing exploratory research.

Duarte, R. (2010) Exploring the Social Impacts of Favela Tourism: An insight into the residents’ view. MSc. Wageningen, Wageningen University.

The thesis can be downloaded from Wageningen university website. However, the link does not always seem to work, so you can also download it from Slumtourism.net directly. If you have an interesting document, thesis or report regarding slum tourism, please contact us so we can share it on the Slum Tourism Network.


Favela tours and the colonial legacy

At the 2010 London Debates series, a set of international discussion workshops aiming to bring together early career researchers and invited senior researchers. Bianca Freire-Medieros presented a paper on the relation between the colonial legacy and favela tours. Her discussion is interesting and contains several linkages to the ethical debate on slum tourism as well. Among other things she concludes:

“Within culture, the margins, albeit still peripheral”, writes Stuart Hall, “have never been a space more productive than they are today” (quoted in Schwertner 2007). Such productive space is not only an effect of the opening in the dominating spaces, but also “results from cultural policies on the different, from struggles around the different, from the production of new identities and from the appearance of new subjects  in the political and cultural arena” (ibid.). Hall argues that, although the opening of new spaces for the different is extremely positive, it might be equally perverse if the “characters of margin” are seen as no more than “a  flavor of the exotic”. It seems to me that such is precisely the dilemma of the touristic favela, not because it is a touristic attraction, but for it is still perceived as belonging on the margins of Brazilian culture.

To understand how she reached this conclusion you can download the full paper (pdf 330 kb) from the London Debates Website. If you disagree with her or would like to discuss her findings, feel free to comment, if you have written a similar paper yourself and would like to publish it on slumtourism.net, please let us know!