Accepted paper:

Sex, slaughter, sleaze and salvation: 'Phoren' tourists in the slums of Calcutta, India


Atreyee Sen (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

The main 'S' words explored in the anthropology of tourism, sun, sex, sea, sights and sand, perhaps need to incorporate further slaugher, sleaze and salvation. My paper for this panel will explore the violence and voyeurism in viewing poverty in marginalised urban spaces. It will uncover fluidities within small-scale local travel industries and how the latter cater to changing lifestyles, religious angst and sexual preferences of international travellers. I did my ethnography in the slums of Calcutta, where travel entrepreneurs organised a range of discreet tours for 'foreigners' (primarily from Australia and the US). These popular expeditions into slum areas offered 'sightings', such as half-naked women bathing at wells, ritualistic animal sacrifice, the aged dying of starvation etc. While reinforcing stereotypes of the primitive other (as against the exotic other), these secret tours allowed travellers to indulge in a range of emotions, from real life voyeurism to 'showing gratitude to God for being civilised'. By emphasising the ambivalences and contradictions in viewing and representing the other, this paper argues further that the immoral and critical gaze of the foreign tourist can affect the nature of morality and commercialism among the urban poor.

panel G1
Everyday adventures in being: experiencing the city and landscape