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.