Tag Archives: voyeurism

Two new articles on slum tourism in India

The popularity of slum tourism in academic journals continues to increase.Here are two new ones:

An article titled Touristic mobilities in India’s slum spaces by Anya Diekmann and Kevin Hannamwas recently published in Annals of Tourism Research.They examine walking tour experiences of tourists doing slum tours in India to examine representational and non-representational theories of social lifes

The ethics of slum tourism in India are revisited by Deepak Chhabra and Akshat Chowdhury in their article titled Slum Tourism: Ethical or Voyeuristic? They note how slum tourism constitutes complex production process strives to provide both meaningful and profitable tourist gazes, although heavy traces of voyeurism can be found.

Difficulties in promoting tourism to the Tenderloin area in San Francisco

Although most news on slum tourism still focuses on developing countries, slum  tourism is becoming more and more visible in Western Europe and the USA too, as do the ethical discussions surrounding such tourism. A recent example of this is so called tourism to the area of  “Tenderloin” in San Francisco.  Proponents who want to develop this kind of tourism are backed by the city’s mayor who wants to use tourism to promote “a positive identity for the Tenderloin” by posting plaques on buildings to “create great visual interest for those walking down the community’s street”.

I found two points particularly interesting about this article. Firstly it mentions it may be easier to encourage local San Franciscans to visit the area, rather than foreign tourists, given that there are so many things to do in the city. If it will be mainly local people that visit the area, tourism here will be very different from for example township tourism or favela tourism that are mainly visited by foreign visitors. It would be interesting to see if these areas will be represented in different ways because of this, particularly as domestic slum tourism receives very little popular and academic attention.

Another, slightly related point that intrigued me has been the reception of the idea of tourism. One blogger was fairly moderate in his comments and discussed how the area may simply not be suitable for tourism and media-hungry public figures use it for some free publicity. I do not know the area, but this could very well be the case. Others have been less moderate and show the underlying tensions that are so significant with slum tourism. One blogger decided to criticise the idea of tourism to Tenderloin by making fun of it, stereotyping the neighborhood and the people who live there. It would seem articles like this do more to misrepresent and stigmatise impoverished neighborhoods than tourism could ever do. As an author from the Tenderloin area notes, the article is full of banal and overblown generalizations and simply bad taste. Interestingly (s)he then turns to discuss tourism to the Tenderloin and argues that while seeming decent, tourism may actually to turn out very negative:

“Tours of poverty (rephrased as “grittiness” in some attempt at being politically correct) are scummy. There’s a reason that aspects of them are big in South Africa and Germany as it seems that in places where white supremacists were/are big, they love that shit. It’s like going to a human zoo for them. This of course fits in line with how they view anyone not white. Rather shocking that it’d be tried in San Francisco”.

An example of a vehicle that should not be used to visit a slum.

Here the prejudice and stereotype is reserved for those that are interested and take part in such tours. To be fair to this latter blogger in another post (s)he writes about how tourists visit Tenderloin in the vehicle that can be seen on the picture on the right. Even though the tour apparently also visited other parts of the city, using a vehicle like this to visit an area like Tenderloin is seriously distasteful and makes a  negative perspective on slum tourism more understandable.

The example of tourism to this neighborhood and the strong reactions it provokes  show the inherent difficulty involved with slum tourism. The idea of supporting tourism to an impoverished area and posting plaques on buildings seems a useful way of promoting awareness particularly among local people and potentially bring some additional money to poorer communities. However, it is very easy for slum tourism to be vulgarized and this makes it likely to be dismissed out of hand. On the other hand, hiding impoverished areas does not make them go away and provides visitors with only a partial picture of a place.

Again, it seems that one cannot really discuss slum tourism in terms of good and bad. It can be both, depending on the way areas are represented and the extent to which it is done with a respectful attitude to the community.


Real Misery – Newspaper article in Stuttgarter Zeitung

Last month the German newspaper the “Stuttgarter Zeitung” published an article on slum tourism. In an interview with human geographer Malte Steinbrink, the history of slum tourism is explained as well as a short debate on the motifs and ethics of tourism to such areas. In the end Steinbrink mentions  that whilst tourism benefits certain individuals, by itself it is certainly not enough to fight poverty.

You can read the original article in German here.

Should I stay or should I go? Negotiating township tours in post-apartheid South Africa

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.