Evolving humanity, emerging worlds
Manchester, UK; 5th-10th August 2013
Commodifying urban poverty, social exclusion and marginalisation: spatial and social consequences (IUAES Commission on Urban Anthropology)
Location Alan Turing Building G207
Date and Start Time 08 Aug, 2013 at 09:00
This panel investigates the effects of increasing commodification and global representation of the urban poor and their spaces. What are the consequences for cities and their dwellers when poverty and decay are turned into fashionable tourist experiences?
This panel investigates the effects of increasing commodification and global representation of the urban poor and their spaces. While many cities are eager to "clean" their central spaces and move beggars, street children and other "undesirable" citizens out in order to present a favourable image to visitors and potential investors, others draw attention to poverty and market no-go areas, gang life, slums and other poverty-ridden urban areas as tourist destinations. While these socio-spaces were previously banned from the city's representation, they are now tentatively included as parts of the urban environment. Tourists seem to be keen to move into these spaces, yet in a controlled way. The consequences of these globally prevalent urban practices are manifold yet have hardly been investigated empirically, less in a comparative perspective. This panel examines the ways tourism intersects with spaces of urban misery and their representation. It seeks to understand how the commodification and circulation of representations of the poor and their spaces affects city imaginaries, urban space, local economies and social relations. By emphasizing actors and socio-spatial dimensions, this panel includes a performative understanding of these practices and thus goes beyond the analysis of representation strategies. What are the consequences for cities and their dwellers when poverty is turned into fashionable tourist experiences? How are cities transformed by these processes and how are social relationships reconfigured in these spaces of encounter? Who actually benefits when social inequality becomes part of the city's spatial perception and place promotion? Papers addressing these aspects are welcome.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
This panel seeks to investigate the effects of increasing commodification and marketable global representations of the urban poor and their particular spaces: how does this affect city imaginaries, urban space, local economies and social relations?
This paper introduces research on the effects of increasing commodification and marketable global representations of the urban poor and their particular spaces. While many cities are eager to "clean" their central spaces and remove "undesirable" citizens to present a favourable urban image, others draw attention to marginalization, poverty and social exclusion and market no-go areas, gang life, drug districts, slums and other poverty-ridden urban areas as tourist destinations. While these socio-spaces were previously erased from the city's representation, they are now tentatively included as integral parts of the urban environment. Increasingly, tourists seem to be keen to move into these spaces, albeit always in a controlled and safe way. The consequences of these quickly expanding, globally prevalent urban practices are manifold yet have hardly been investigated empirically, much less in a comparative perspective. This panel aims to examine the ways tourism intersects with spaces of urban misery and their representation. How do the commodification and increasing circulation of representations of the poor and their spaces affect city imaginaries, urban space, local economies and social relations? By emphasizing actors and socio-spatial dimensions, we include a performative understanding of these practices, going beyond the analysis of representation strategies. What are the consequences for cities and their dwellers when poverty and decay are turned into fashionable tourist experiences? How are cities transformed by these processes and how are social relationships reconfigured in these new spaces of encounter? Who actually benefits when social inequality becomes part of the city's spatial perception and place promotion?
'No photos please'- counter-narratives of slumming in Mumbai
This paper considers how slum tours represent poverty, enterprise and the urban experience. We problematise tours as forms of 'empathetic enrolment' and consider how from they operate as forms of ‘counter worlding’.
A growing number of projects around the world attempt to draw visitors to view experiences of poverty, suffering and development. These projects range from slum and slavery theme parks, to tours of actual slums, refugee camps and sites of famine amongst others. Governments, NGOs and international development agencies are all engaged in constructing opportunities for 'empathetic enrolment', and which may manifest as charity and volunteerism. This paper considers how slum tours at a number of sites, but principally in Mumbai, represent poverty, enterprise and the urban experience. Drawing from participant observation as well as interviews with guides and organisers, the paper problematises the tour as a form of 'empathetic enrolment' reliant on colonial tropes and well-worn development narratives. We critically consider the tours from the perspective of 'counter worlding' and our conclusion connects the tour to an understanding of post-colonial urbanism.
Reconfiguring Margins and Touristic Encounters: Secondhand Clothing and Street Vending in the Philippines
Street sales of imported used clothing in Baguio City Philippines is expanding as the city promotes this trade to attract tourists. Paradoxically street vending is illegal. Using public advocacy vendors transform their clandestine trade into viable work gaining the citizenship rights they demand.
"They say a trip to Baguio City [Philippines] is not complete without visiting its famous ukay-ukay [used clothing] street markets sprawled around the city…The trade has become one of the city's main tourist attractions…" (Abaño, Baguio Midland Courier 2010:A1). Such newspaper reports testify to the growth of the secondhand clothing trade in the Philippines and to street vendors' establishment of their specific road locations as the destinations for obtaining particular bargain-priced goods. Indeed, consumers' experiences in regular "shopping junkets" organized from Manila to Baguio City - the Philippine hub for retail and wholesale used clothing sales - are repeatedly reported in major Philippine newspapers. That this trade is largely operationalized the city's urban poor given the recent economic recession, and that street vending is, in theory, illegal, does not figure into Baguio City tourism promotions. In this paper, I argue that at the same time that the Baguio City government promotes street market sales of used clothing for tourist consumption, it maintains such used clothing street sales as marginal and sometimes illegal activities by periodically chasing vendors from their sites, blocking vendors' efforts to obtain recognized rights over street space for their trade, and by promoting the thrill of the hunt of hidden treasures to tourists. The resultant paradoxical situation between street vendors and Baguio City officials has lead to ongoing confrontations as vendors seek to resituate their trade from that of clandestine tourist-niche activity to one that enables the citizenship and livelihood rights they demand and warrant.
Slum Tourism: Pro-poor Tourism or Voyeurism in Disguise? A Case Study from Kibera, Nairobi.
Slum tourism is rapidly establishing itself as a popular tourism phenomenon in various locations worldwide and particularly in Kibera, Nairobi. This research is a response to controversies and limited academic research of slum tourism and seeks to investigate its impacts in Kibera from a pro-poor socio-economic development perspective.
Urban poverty tourism, also referred to as slum, favela or township tourism, is on the rise in various locations worldwide and in Kibera, Nairobi in particular in the past few years. Very limited academic research discussing impacts of urban poverty tourism, especially from the local communities' perspectives, and many controversies surrounding this type of tourism which mostly stem from theoretical debates necessitate exploration of this phenomenon in more depth. Furthermore, vulnerability of slum inhabitants in terms of their limited resources such as financial capital, access to credits, knowledge of and access to international markets which makes them prone to manipulation and exploitation further emphasise the need to investigate impacts of this type of tourism. Kibera provides a special case, as currently, there are limited academic accounts discussing slum tourism in this particular location. This research is a response to this vacuum and investigates impacts of slum tourism in Kibera from a pro-poor socio-economic development perspective. I argue that aid and development discourses together with global citizenship narratives are used to legitimise the existence of urban poverty tourism in Kibera while economic exploitation and neo-colonial relations of superiority and inferiority between hosts and guests remain prevalent. Although slum tourism offers potential to contribute towards poverty alleviation and to facilitate participation in the global market economy by the Kibera inhabitants, these opportunities are only grasped by some leaving many on its periphery where social and economic disparities are further reinforced.
Gecekondu Chic: Aestheticization of Urban Poverty in Istanbul
My paper focuses on the emerging imagination of “gecekondu chic” and its relevance to the recent coining of Istanbul as “cool city” in global media. I pin down a major discursive shift from negative descriptions of Istanbul in terms of “crude urbanization” (typical of third world cities) to positive reconsiderations of its “crude” characteristics as urban potentialities (of a globalizing city).
This paper focuses on the emerging popular imagination of "gecekondu chic" in the context of Istanbul. To understand why and how this imagination emerges at this point in time and space, I discuss closely a contemporary art exhibition by an Istanbulite painter representing on canvas the gecekondu neighborhoods of a bygone age, an "alternative" gecekondu tour organized by a tourism company serving mainly a German clientele, and a French-Austrian urban research group's studies of Istanbul geared towards "learning from the city's informal urbanism." My analysis pins down a major discursive change from negative descriptions of Istanbul's urban development in terms of "crude urbanization" (typical of third world cities) to positive reconsiderations of its "crude" characteristics as urban potentialities (of a globalizing city). The latter coincides with the remarkable transformation of the city's image in global media, which has coined Istanbul as "the coolest city of Europe" (Newsweek 2005). I discuss the relevance of the imagination of "gecekondu chic" to Istanbul's new global image as "cool city," with a background made up of the material transformation of the city's spaces: the ongoing demolitions, displacements and evictions in gecekondu neighborhoods on the one hand; those areas of the city that are increasingly becoming chic commercial spaces of consumption on the other. The relationship between these seemingly distinct material changes constitute the core problematic in my discussion of the discursive break in the imagination of the gecekondu in Istanbul.
Istanbul's Armenian Immigrants in Kumkapi: Embracing Global Discourses on East-West Divide, Ethnic Tolerance and Hospitality/ Commodifying Conflicting Images of Urban Landscape
This paper examines the context in which Kumkapi neighbourhood of Istanbul has become a stage to perform (a) Istanbul's unique position between the East and the West and (b) "tolerance" and "hospitality" towards Armenian immigrants in front of international tourist groups.
Istanbul recently has become one of the top international travel destinations. With the booming tourist economy, hotels, art galleries and museums have mushroomed in the city centre. Kumkapi similarly has a central location in Istanbul's historical peninsula; however it does not follow the same fashion. It is one of the poorest neighbourhoods and home to the largest number of illegal and undocumented immigrants mostly from Armenia and other post-socialist countries.
Nevertheless Kumkapi attracts many tourists. During the day, the main square is bustling with tourists who eat at the famous fish restaurants, visit historical churches and the Armenian Patriarchate. However, Kumkapi is also where tourists "find" demolishing houses, witness extreme poverty and encounter with immigrant street vendors. Moreover, Istanbul's prison for illegal and undocumented immigrants is at the heart of neighbourhood and the police have obvious visibility on the streets (Yet, almost no illegal or undocumented migrant has heard of getting arrested).
Conflicting images of poverty and fancy restaurants, illegality and police control, specters of local Armenians and the presence of new Armenian immigrants help tourists "re-affirm" and "re-discover" Istanbul's liminal position between the East and the West, ancient and modern, arbitrary and legal, dirty and clean, and poor and rich. However, these images are results of not-so-random processes. Based on fieldwork, I argue that what Kumkapi offers to tourists should be analyzed as a product of certain political conjunctures. Moreover, I will also aim to demonstrate how imaginations of Istanbul-between-East-and-West and official discourses of "hospitality" and "tolerance" towards (ethnicized) transnational immigrants in Turkey are in tandem with global trends in branding cities as cosmopolitan. Yet, these also function as mechanisms of social exclusion that perpetuates the social (and legal) marginalization of immigrant populations at the heart of an enormous city.
What do Tourists in the Urban Jungle need? Designboom, Rhetorics, Effects
The proposed contribution investigates how far specific art and design projects prepare the ground for tendencies towards commodifying urban poverty discursively, how far they reinforce it and profit from it, although even understanding themselves, to some extent, as a critical reaction to it.
Accompanying the increasing commodification of phenomena originating in urban poverty, we can observe a continuing proliferation of specific design and art projects, mostly operating in superficially aesthetic and functional terms. In the first instance, a succession of hybrid shelters address the socially disadvantaged from a range of ethnocentric perspectives and offer them ostensible solutions. Fold-up boxes and convertible tent structures are apparently tailored exactly to the needs of the envisaged users.
Other objects make penetrating the depths of the urban jungle congenial to hedonistic circles from an affluent society, paralleling an expedition into unexplored, unpredictable reaches of nature. Somewhere between buildings and clothing, many of these designs for mobile protective shelters display a pronounced low-budget aesthetic of ephemerality: raincoats can be inflated into airbeds or armchairs. Shelters resembling tents can be hung from trees or supported in a stable shape by the draught from ventilation plants.
Then again, a third group involves objects suggesting security, which either emphasise the social distance from the urban tourists or cater to the needs of local economies. The former include rings, which can both fashion accessories and means of self defence or handbags with visible weapon holsters; the latter include café chairs with built-in fastenings for bags.
The research intent focuses on those actors who design and market such products, their motivations, backgrounds and rhetorics, as well as the networks circulating the products, and finally on the actual relationship such people have to urban poverty, precarious situations and the ways these latter are spatialised.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.