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‘We did the Slum!’ – Urban Poverty Tourism in Historical Perspective

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Slum tourism in the Global South is a relatively new phenomenon. The tourist gaze at the poverty of the Others is long established, though. This paper is concerned with the genesis of urban poverty tourism. By placing the phenomenon of slumming in the wider realm of the social upheavals in Victorian London and early twentieth century USA, the historical review first explains its dependency on the social context determining its emergence and evolution. Secondly, slum tourism is shown to be adequately understood only if seen as part of modern city tourism. Thirdly, it is demonstrate that the culturalization of poverty attains special significance in slum tourism. Fourthly, the history of slum tourism is shown to have implications for understanding present-day slum tourism in the Global South, using South Africa as an example. The article is designed to be a first step towards understanding the conditions, forms and consequences of globalization of slum tourism and the process of constructing the global slum as a universal type of tourist destination.

Keywords: England; South Africa; USA; ethnic slumming; global slumming; history; moral slumming; poverty tourism; slum tourism; urban tourism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Institute for Geography & Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS),University of Osnabrück, Osnabrück, Germany

Publication date: May 1, 2012

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