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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)


Slum Tourism: Developments in a Young Field of Interdisciplinary Tourism Research – Free download

A recent article by Fabian Frenzel and Ko Koens titled “Slum Tourism: Developments in a Young Field of Interdisciplinary Tourism Research” can now be downloaded for free from the publisher’s website. It provides a short overview of current central themes in the literature on the subject and sets out a short research agenda. As such it is both a useful introduction for researchers that are new to the subject, as well as those that want to reacquaint themselves with subject to do new research in the future.

It is not certain how long this articel will remain open access, so it may be useful to download it soon!

Abstract

This paper introduces the Special Issue on slum tourism with a reflection on the state of the art on this new area of tourism research. After a review of the literature we discuss the breadth of research that was presented at the conference ‘Destination Slum’, the first international conference on slum tourism. Identifying various dimensions, as well as similarities and differences, in slum tourism in different parts of the world, we contest that slum tourism has evolved from being practised at only a limited number of places into a truly global phenomenon which now is performed on five continents. Equally the variety of services and ways in which tourists visit the slums has increased.

The widening scope and diversity of slum tourism is clearly reflected in the variety of papers presented at the conference and in this Special Issue. Whilst academic discussion on the theme is evolving rapidly, slum tourism is still a relatively young area of research. Most papers at the conference and, indeed, most slum tourism research as a whole appears to remain focused on understanding issues of representation, often concentrating on a reflection of slum tourists rather than tourism. Aspects, such as the position of local people, remain underexposed as well as empirical work on the actual practice of slum tourism. To address these issues, we set out a research agenda in the final part of the article with potential avenues for future research to further the knowledge on slum tourism.

Frenzel, F. & Koens, K. (2012) Slum Tourism: Developments in a Young Field of Interdisciplinary Tourism Research. Tourism Geographies, 14 (2), p.pp.1–18.

BBC World Service broadcast on slum tourism in Dharavi

An interesting radio broadcast on slum tourism was recently aired by the BBCWorld Service. Its “Business Daily” programme reports on slum tours in Dharavi, India and we hear a short analysis from Dr. Malte Steinbrink on the subject about whether the phenomenon represents aid or exploitation for slum-dwellers.

 

The programme can be download from the BBC World Service website, or you can download the report as an mp3 file directly from here (the part on slum tourism starts at 7.12).

 

New Book on Slum Tourism

Last week a new book on slum tourism was published by Routledge Publications. Edited by Fabian Frenzel, Ko Koens and Malte Steinbrink, it contains both theoretically oriented papers papers as well as more practical case study examples of slum tourism of seven different countries on four continent. In combination with the special issue of Tourism Geographies on slum tourism that was discussed earlier on slumtourism.net , the book provides a comprehensive overview of the current empirical, practical and theoretical knowledge on the subject.

Within the book a critical review of issues associated with slum tourism is provided, asking why slums are visited, whether they should be visited, how they are represented, who benefits and in what way? As such the work promises to offers new insights to tourism’s role in poverty alleviation and urban regeneration, power relations in contact zones and tourism’s cultural and political implications.

 

 

 

CONTENTS:

1. Slum Tourism – A New Trend in Tourism?

Part 1: Situating Slum Tourism

2. Wanting to Live with Common People? The Literary Evolution of Slumming

3. Beyond ‘Othering’ the Political Roots of Slum-Tourism

4. Slum Tourism: For the Poor by the Poor

5. Competition, Cooperation and Collaboration: Business Relations and Power in Township Tourism

Part 2: Representation of Poverty

6. ‘A Forgotten Place to Remember: Reflections on the Attempt to Turn a Favela into a Museum’

7. Tourism of Poverty: The Value of Being Poor in the Non-Governmental Order

8. Negotiating Poverty: The Interplay Between Dharavi’s Production and Consumption as a Tourist Destination

9. Reading the Bangkok Slum

Part 3: Slum Tourism and Empowerment

10. Favela Tourism: Listening to Local Voices

11. Slum Tourism and Inclusive Urban Development: Reflections on China

12. Poverty Tourism as Advocacy: A Case in Bangkok

13. Curatorial Interventions in Township Tours: Two Trajectories Conclusion

14. Keep on Slumming?

 

The danger of a single story

In an earlier post I mentioned a television programme that placed celebrities in Kibera in Kenya. On the internet the programme has been criticised for portraying such a negative picture on the slums and some even use it as a way to criticise slum tourism in general.  One of my colleagues recently pointed towards one of the main problems of the programme, namely that it portrays Kibera using a single story of poverty. She then pointed me to this excellent presentation of Chimamanda Adichie regarding the dangers of such a single narrative.

The matters raised in the presentation are in my opinion very much related to the ethical debates surrounding slum tourism. The presentation and emphasising of a single story of poverty in slums has been used to criticise tours where tourists visit slums or impoverished areas. This criticism is often justified, in particular with tours where there is little or no contact between tourists and local people. On the other hand slum tourism can also serve to counter negative preconceptions of impoverished urban areas. It can help in showing the great amount of cultural and economic activities as well as diversity of life in these places. As such it can assist in giving people the opportunity to tell “their story” rather than what is shown in the media or have their stories told by others who have only been in these areas themselves a limited number of times.

Unfortunately, too many slum tours do not allow for respectful interaction with local people. Strict time schedules, itineraries and the language barrier make it difficult for tourists to have (meaningful) conversations with people other than the tour guide. Equally, tourists are sometimes more interested in getting “the picture” than listening or talking with others. This limits the experience both for the tourists as their hosts and means such slum tours tell a story of their own rather than that of the people they visit.

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!