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!
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.
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.
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?
Although slumming has quickly become more popular in recent years, it is of course not a new phenomena. During Victorian times it already was a popular pastime for richer middle-class people in London and bigger cities in the United States. An interesting introduction to these earlier forms of slumming can be read in two books that may be worth reading.
Seth Koven writes in his book “Slumming: Sexual and social politics in Victorian London” about how the rich middle-classes started to visit the slums in East London. He describes why people started to visit the slums and how it (partially) shaped Victorian understanding of life. In 2009 Chad Heap wrote a book titled “Slumming: Sexual and racial encounters in American nightlife: 1885-1945.” He argues that slumming was more widespread in US cities than is currently believed. He describes how the initial moralising stance changed and started to provide a platform for artistic, interracial and sexual encounters.
Both books provide an overview of slumming in a different era. They show how at that time slumming also was a contended practice. Also they describe ways in which slumming changed the thinking of people at the time. It would be interesting to see how current forms of slum tourism compare to these historical examples and if anything can be learned from how slum tourism was practised in current times.
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 seems 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.