Accepted paper:

What do Tourists in the Urban Jungle need? Designboom, Rhetorics, Effects


Jörg Seifert (HCU Hamburg)

Paper short abstract:

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.

Paper long abstract:

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.

panel MMM05
Commodifying urban poverty, social exclusion and marginalisation: spatial and social consequences (IUAES Commission on Urban Anthropology)