Accepted paper:

Slum Tourism: Pro-poor Tourism or Voyeurism in Disguise? A Case Study from Kibera, Nairobi.


Aleksandra Szewczyk

Paper short abstract:

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.

Paper long abstract:

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.

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