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.
An interesting finding of the Destination Slum! conference for me was just how many different shapes and forms slum tourism has across the world. The term slum tourism may act as an overencompassing term, but it does hold certain negative connotations and can lead to generalisations that do not fit in certain contexts. Not only may the term be unable to fully accommodate the great differences between “slum areas” around the world, it also suggests “slums” are homogenous entities. Of course this is not the case. While nearly all areas that are visited under the name of slum tourism include people living in shacks, other parts of these areas often are indistinguishable from other (richer) suburbs that would never be represented as slums.
In different countries other terms have become more common to better describe the localised forms of slum tourism. The most famous terms are of course favela tourism in Brazil and township tourism in South Africa. At the Destination Slum! conference however we were also told that a more appropriate term for slums in Egypt would be “Ashwa’iyyatt”, which may lead to the term Ashwa’iyyatt tourism. We were also informed that in China “slum areas” are not necessarily completely urbanised and slum tourism instead may be named “tourism to villages in the city“.
While these terms are undoubtedly better descriptives of the local forms of tourism, I do believe there is a place for the name slum tourism to describe the worldwide phenomenon. Although by no means perfect, it does appear to be able to bring together and combine these differerent outings of tourism around the world in one way or the other. Others may disagree and believe the term is actually hindering our understanding of the concept of slum tourism.
Feel free to comment with your opinion or to share your thoughts on other related questions such as: What other terms are used to describe slum tourism around the world and why are they more accurate than the general name slum tourism or how would we actually define slum tourism?
An article by Shelley Ruth Butler on township tours in South Africa has been published the the Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change. See the details below:
Should I stay or should I go? Negotiating township tours in post-apartheid South Africa
This article focuses on township tours outside Cape Town and Johannesburg during the past decade. By examining the subjectivities of guides and tourists, as well as public discourses about townships, I argue that township tours are ethically problematic and ambiguous, but do not go uncontested. Questions about voyeurism and development are negotiated during the tours in a number of ways. First, the morality of witnessing townships – not through the modality of vision, but through participating in contact zones – is asserted. Second, public discourses that valourize the creativity of the poor, and which harness history as a force for reconciliation and development, inform the tours. Third, tour guides attempt to reform charity and to highlight ethical consumption. An ethnographic and discursive analysis leads me to conclude that township tours are part of a larger post-apartheid project of re-imagining and remaking marginalized urban spaces.
Butler, S.R., 2010. Should I stay or should I go? Negotiating township tours in post-apartheid South Africa. Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, 8(1), pp.15-29. <URL>
This reference can now also be found in the bibliography section of this website.