What is slum tourism?


noun 1 a squalid and overcrowded urban area inhabited by very poor people. 2 a house or building unfit for human habitation.

verb (slummed, slumming) (often slum it) informal voluntarily spend time in uncomfortable conditions or at a lower social level than one’s own.

Source: Compact Oxford English dictionary

Slums (e.g. favelas, townships and other notations) have long tempted popular imagination. They have been and are scandalise, fought, bulldozed down and walled in. At the same time however, they are idealised and sought out as places displaying a more authentic humanity, flourishing culture and deviant, but inventive entrepreneurship. The concept of slum tourism remains popular today and is being addressed in a growing body of academic and practitioner’s research.

Dominant in reflections on slum tourism have long been ethical concerns and reasons for its existence: What is slum tourism and why is it shown? Is slum tourism voyeuristic and immoral? What motivations and expectations did and do people have to visit slums?  To what extend are slum tours considered to be ‘authentic’ forms of holidays? How does today’s slum-tourism relate to its historic predecessors and to the legacy of colonialism? What is the relationship between slum tourism and issues of migration, democracy and (in)equality?

Similarly, questions regarding potential benefits and harmful aspects and the organisation of tourism to deprived urban areas is investigated: To what extent does slum tourism provide an income and positive visibility for people in deprived areas? Which stakeholders are involved in slum tourism and who profits most? How are guided tours organised or composed?  What are the geographical scopes of slum-tourism and which place does it occupy in the new mobility system? Where does slum tourism fit in a globalised world of tourist consumption?

An increasing number of scholars are working on these issues on different continents. Slumtourism.net aims to bring together researchers of slum and poverty tourism in urban areas, in order to stimulate an exchange of experiences and contacts. The website is aimed to help create an international network of researchers and provide a stepping stone for further co-operations and projects on the subject.

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