Slum tourism: researching a controversial new holiday activity
An EU-funded researcher is about to embark on a project investigating whether the growing phenomenon of slum tourism is merely a twisted form of entertainment for rich tourists or whether it can help to tackle global inequalities and injustices.
Dr Frenzel, a lecturer in the Political Economy of Organisation at the School of Management, University of Leicester has been awarded a Marie Curie post-doctoral Fellowship to carry out research at the University of Potsdam in Germany, the leading German study centre for research on tourism in areas of urban poverty.
The Marie Curie post-doctoral Fellowship programme helps researchers realise a research project, train in research methods and enhance their European mobility by covering the costs of two years of research.
Dr Frenzel will look at the rise in the numbers of tours in areas of urban poverty, often referred to as slums, favelas or townships.
'This form of tourism might seem unusual but in recent years more and more visitors have taken tours in slums, predominantly in South Africa, Brazil and India, but increasingly also in other cities across the world,' he says.
'Curiosity to visit slums is often considered morally problematic, particularly as tourism is associated with fun and entertainment. Many people would argue that it is voyeuristic to watch people in their poor living conditions. My research will place slum tourism in the context of social and political questions over global equity and the eradication of poverty.'
Dr Frenzel will look at a variety of case studies by interviewing participating tourists, locals and tour operators. The central question of his research is to find out to what extent slum tourism is merely a form of entertainment for tourists coming from developed countries and if it can help tackle global inequalities and injustices.
But these tourism trends are by no means a new phenomenon. It seems the Victorians too took part in their fair share of 'slumming', visiting the slums of east London in organised tours, often guided by police or professionals.
'These sites of squalor have long enticed popular imagination,' says Dr Frenzel. 'Many people experienced poverty not in literal tours, but in literary ways, for example in the writing of Charles Dickens.
'Today this convergence of literal and literary slumming continues. The recent fascination with films like District 9, City of God and Slumdog Millionaire shows that these desires are still with us. Indeed in today's 'planet of slums', slum-tourism flourishes.'
For example, visitors to Rio de Janeiro once contented themselves with snapping away at classic tourist hotspots like the Christ the Redeemer Statue and the Sugar Loaf, but now the favelas have become just as popular among those taking a trip to Brazil's second largest city.
In South Africa too, slum tourism has developed into a mass phenomenon, including the provision of hospitality for tourists in the slums.
Dr Frenzel's study will aim to draw conclusions as to what we consider to be tourism, as slums are also visited by a variety of different people including volunteers working for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and charity organisations, professional aid workers and academics. Dr Frenzel hopes to find out where these people fit into the problem too.
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Data Source Provider: University of Leicester
Document Reference: Based on information from the University of Leicester
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Subject Index : Coordination, Cooperation; Economic Aspects; Regional Development; Scientific Research; Social Aspects
Publication date: 2012-05-23
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