Worldtown Hearsay :: Slum Tourism
An Op-Ed at the New York Times by a former resident of Kenya’s most notorious slum - Kibera raises light on the controversial hot topic of Slum Tourism. The piece questions not only the ethics of this rich watch the poor tourism, but the actual purpose of it. Does it make the tourist a better person to see how people live in dire conditions? To snap a few photos and go home and talk about it? Or is it propelling the cycle of poverty; dividing those behind the lens - the dwellers, and those behind the camera - the tourists?
Slum tours originated sometime in the 1990’s. Not all residents view them as an infringment on dignity, some profit from being entrepreneurial in start-up tour companies that share slum life with the outside.
On the other hand, they feed into a detached Western Aid/Development narrative on suffering - a perspective exposed in the film “Enjoy Poverty”. In any case, Slum Tourism is most likely an established, and here to stay element in today’s world - without the will to address how to change it on the ground:
“To be fair, many foreigners come to the slums wanting to understand poverty, and they leave with what they believe is a better grasp of our desperately poor conditions. The expectation, among the visitors and the tour organizers, is that the experience may lead the tourists to action once they get home.
But it’s just as likely that a tour will come to nothing. After all, looking at conditions like those in Kibera is overwhelming, and I imagine many visitors think that merely bearing witness to such poverty is enough.”
Read more here.