Kingston Workshop

From September 23th to September 28th 2015 our Research Team met in Kingston, Jamaica, for the third site-specific workshop.

The guests who joined us from Mexico were Luis Arevalo Venegas and Jacobo Noe Loeza Amaro, who had taken us around Tepito the previous week. From Brazil we were joined by Barbara Nascimento and William De Paula, with who we had great conversations about gentrification in Vidigal, and Mauricio Hora, a photographer who had introduced us to Providencia.

We kicked off the workshop by meeting Mr James Samuels, Chairman of the Kingston Metropolitan Resort Board, who explained that Kingston is not perceived as a tourism destination, whether by tourists or the Jamaican private sector, who fail to develop and promote the city. Mr Samuels sees community based tourism as a great tool for development and an essential part of the burgeoning Kingston tourism product. After this discussion, the group embarked on a tour entitled “The Birth of the Tourism Industry” given by architect Evan Williams. Mr Williams took us by bus across Kingston on the trail of the 1891 Great Exhibition that sparked the beginning of the Jamaican hotel and hospitality industry. Interestingly, many of the buildings and old hotels on his tour no longer exist, or have been transformed into schools. This absence seemed to bear witness to the lack of investment in Kingston that Mr Samuels had deplored that very morning.

The following day, we went to the Institute of Jamaica’s Museum to learn more about Rastafari, ate Ital food and took a bus tour organized by the Jamaican Urban Transport Corporation. The bus took us to the Bob Marley museum, The Culture Yard in Trench Town and the Tuff Gong Recording Studio, on a musical heritage tour of Kingston. The Saturday morning, we attended a community stakeholder meeting in Trench Town, exchanging about tourism and addressing questions surrounding ownership, violence and development. We then returned to the Culture Yard where Sophia, the chief tour guide who had travelled with us to Rio, greeted us warmly. She later gave us an extensive walking tour of the community and we visited several craftsmen. The final day was spend in Port Royal – one of the region’s main heritage tourism destinations, visiting the old fort and the quaint fishing village.

As in Brazil and Mexico, this Jamaican leg of our tour based workshops allowed us to explore the similarities and differences between community tourism in Rio, Kingston and Mexico City. Here, we questioned the term ‘community’, interrogated the links between violence and tourism, and investigated the idea of tourism as a tool for development. We also observed the role of the guide in brokering the tourism product. William de Paula, capoeirista, cultural activist from Vidigal and guest researcher for the workshop, dew a list of key words that were inspired by our week in Kingston: “humanity, hope, history, conflict, politics, drugs, transformation, money, favela, dreams, exploitation of tourism, tourism”.

As we now finish our respective fieldwork research periods, we will have time to reflect on the material and experiences accumulated during these workshops, and look forward to further group discussions to come.

Mexico City workshop

From September 15th to September 21th 2015 our Research Team met for the second of three site-specific workshops.

This time, we all gathered in Mexico City, for an intense week, visiting both the City at large and the extraordinary Tepito neighbourhood. The three principal investigators and three researchers from the London School of Economics, The University of Amsterdam and the Ludwig Maximillian’s University of Munich were joined by five guests. From Jamaica, guests included Lakeisha Ellison, Organiser of the Trench Town Rock Saturdays and creator of the food and clothing brand of the same name, and Vuraldo Barnett, Manager of the Trench Town Restorative Justice Centre. From Brazil, we were joined by Salete Martins and José Carlos Pereira, two tour guides from Santa Marta in Rio de Janeiro, and Thainã Medeiros, a social activist and media specialist from Complexo de Almeao.

During the workshop, we visited the city’s vast Historical Centre, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and the much toured area of Coyoacán, home to the Frida Kahlo museum with a tour guide. We visited the neighbourhood of Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl, situated on the outskirts of Mexico and undergoing much change. These various tours allowed us to understand the overarching tourism landscape of Mexico City and enabled us to put Tepito, the neighbourhood our study concentrates on, into a wider frame.

We then embarked on three distinct tours of Tepito. The first tour was led by Alfonso Hérnandez of the Centro de Estudios Tepiteños. The second was led by Gabriel Sanchez Valverde, an architect involved in a garbage and recycling project, and the third by Luis Arevalo Venegas a shoe maker and cultural activist and his assistant Jacobo Noe Loeza Amaro. All three tours highlighted different areas and aspects of the neighbourhood, taking us through and around the area’s vast informal market – to various sites of worship, crafts and dwellings. This allowed us to understand the role of the tour guide in shaping a touristic narrative and delivering representations of the community. It was fascinating to note what each guide chose to include or discard from his tour, and this hinted to the multiple and contested readings of Tepito. A very informative part of our workshop included an afternoon sit down with participants of the cultural project ‘Las 7 Cabronas’ of Tepito – strong women who shared their thoughts and experiences of the neighbourhood they live and work in.

As it had done so in Brazil, this Mexican leg of our tour based workshop stimulated discussions and exchanges between participants, enabling us to highlight similarities and differences between community tourism in Rio, Kingston and Mexico City. This comparative approach confirmed commonalities and questions that bind all three research sites. It allowed the researchers and guests to probe questions pertaining to commodification, (il)legality, security and violence, poverty, marginalization, change, transformation and / or gentrification, architecture and urban landscapes through the lens of tourism.

The following week, we were in Kingston!

FAVELissues writes about ‘Slum Tourism in the Americas’

Tucker Landesman, a researcher in Human Geography and writer for ‘FAVELissues’, interviewed Alessandro Angelini and posted an article about our ‘Slum Tourism in the Americas’ research project. FAVELissues is a collaborative blog, created by an interdisciplinary team of researchers and writers, analyzing urban informality on a global scale.

Click here to read the article and have fun exploring their blog!



Presenting at the LASA 2015 Conference San Juan, Puerto Rico

On Thursday the 28th of May, our research team organized and presented a panel at the 2015 LASA conference. The panel, entitled ‘Slums on Show: Poverty and Violence as Spectacular Commodity’,  explored the commodification and aestheticization of poverty and violence in Latin American and Caribbean cities, focusing on ‘slum tourism’. Barbara Vodopivec (Ludwig-Maximilians University), Alessandro Angelini (London School of Economics and Political Science) and Alana Osbourne (University of Amsterdam), were joined by Sarah Becklake (Lancaster University) and David Frohnapfel, who presented papers on tourism in Guatemala and Haiti respectively.

The session, organized by Gareth Jones  (London School of Economics and Political Science) and Eveline Dürr (Ludwig-Maximilians University), provided an ethnographic perspective on so called ‘slums’ as spaces of encounter between residents, informal intermediaries and tourists,  thereby linking international cultural producers and consumers of spaces of urban deprivation. The session raised questions concerning power and inequality, and specifically how the spatialization of class, gender, and race relations is being reshaped. Florence Babb (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) author of The Tourism Encounter: Fashioning Latin American Nations and Histories (2011), was the discussant for the session, providing great feedback on the papers and opening the conversation to the floor, creating a stimulating exchange.

Rio de Janeiro workshop

From April 10th to April 16th 2015 our Research Team met for the first of three site-specific workshops.

The three principal investigators and three researchers from the London School of Economics, The University of Amsterdam and the Ludwig Maximillian’s University of Munich were joined by three guests. Veronica Matilde Hernandeh Hernande,  a street vendor from Tepito’s famous market in Mexico City, Trevor Spence, Chairman of the Boy’s Town Association and Sophia Dowes, tour guide at the Culture Yard in Trench Town  in Kingston Jamaica.

During the workshop, we were able to map and experience a little of the favela tourism landscape in Rio de Janeiro where Alessandro Angelini, post-doctoral researcher for the London School of Economics, is currently carrying out his fieldwork. Our busy schedule included visits and tours of the communities of Vidigal, Babilônia, Santa Marta, Rocinha, Alemão and Providencia. During our stay, we met with a wide range of local stakeholders including tour guides from both commercial operators and community based organisations, artists such as Mauricio Hora, a photographer and author of Picture a Favela (2012), and community activists. Opportunities were also provided to exchange with local academics such as Bianca Freire-Medeiros who has carried out extensive work on favela tourism. Meetings with government officials included a presentation and Q&A with Antonio Roberto Cesario de Sá, Sub secretary of Operational Integration and Planning at the State Security Department, and Philipe Campello, Deputy Secretary of Tourism. Both meetings brought to the fore the entanglements between violence, security and tourism, providing insight into the specific Brazilian context as well as an opportunity to compare these realities with the other research sites. Furthermore, we experienced first-hand the developing hospitality cultures of Vidigal, and how this participates in the complex relationship between pacification, favela tourism and gentrification.

Overall, this activity based workshop fostered opportunities to stimulate discussions and exchanges between participants, enabling us to highlight similarities and differences between community tourism in Rio, Kingston and Mexico City. This comparative approach shed light on the themes and common questions that underscore all three research sites. It allowed the researchers to confront and recalibrate their topics list, as well as bring together actors who are rarely connected – creating connections between Trench Town, Tepito and Rio de Janeiro.

We look forward to the next workshop to be held in Mexico in September 2015!

Latin American Studies Association 2015 Congress

LASA – Conference Panel:

LASA’s mission is to foster intellectual discussion, research, and teaching on Latin America, the Caribbean, and its people throughout the Americas; to promote the interests of its diverse membership; and to encourage civic engagement through network building and public debate.

During the 2015 LASA Congress, our research team will present a Panel entitled: “Slums on Show: Poverty and Violence as Spectacular Commodity” into the Track: Mass Media and Popular Culture for This event will take place May 27 –30 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Stakeholder Meeting in Rio de Janeiro

Rio Stakeholder meeting

Stakeholder meetings will be held in the four field sites to disseminate research results through research presentations and active discussions with, and input from, participants. These workshops will include all researchers/PIs, and bring together stakeholders from tourism and urban development agencies, commercial tour companies and community-based organizations. In addition, this project will be able to make a significant societal impact through its relevance to non-academic stakeholders, and its activities aimed at including them.


The workshops will create a space for cooperation between different stakeholders (slum residents, policymakers, academics) from all four countries, bringing together actors who are rarely connected.

The first of these stakeholder meetings will be held in Rio from the 10th to the 16th of April 2015.

Rivke Jaffe Selected for the Young Academy

Rivke Jaffe selected for the Young Academy

The Young Academy selects ten new talented researchers annually for a period of 5 years. The academy is a dynamic and innovative group of top young scientists and scholars with outspoken views about science and scholarship and related policies.

The Young Academy organises activities for various target groups focusing on interdisciplinarity, science policy, and the interface between science and society. Its members represent a broad spectrum of scientific and scholarly disciplines and work at Dutch universities and a wide range of research institutes.

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences decided to set up the Young Academy in 2005. The Young Academy operates independently within the Royal Academy. It has its own working plan, organises its own events and is responsible for its own viewpoints.

The official induction of the new members will take place 26 March 2015 at the Trippenhuis of KNAW.