The commercialization of Tepito as a tourism product is strongly associated with the neighbourhood’s negative reputation and its visual representation and the way they influence each other. Still there is pride among Tepiteños, the residents of Tepito, or even a collective identity, that seems to defy poverty and stereotypes. Cordula de Bloeme captured this in her portraits which are exhibited at the AkademieGalerie in Munich.
Join us in Munich, at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, from the 16th to the 18th of February 2017 for an International Conference entitled
From Stigma to Brand: Commodifying and Aestheticizing Urban Poverty and Violence
This conference investigates the motives, processes and effects of the commodification and global representation of urban poverty and violence. We welcome papers from a range of disciplinary perspectives including anthropology, geography, sociology, and urban studies. Deadline for abstract submission is September 15, 2016
On the 16th and 17th of June our ‘Inequality Tourism’ research group will meet in Delft to attend the The Netherlands Association for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (NALACS) 2016 Conference. We will be presenting a panel entitled “Selling Poverty and Violence: Inequality Tourism in Urban Latin America and the Caribbean” on the 16th at 2pm. You can find more information about the conference here.
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.
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!
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!
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.
On May 13 2015, Rivke Jaffe was interviewed by the Dutch radio station “NPO Radio 1″. She presented the Slum Tourism in the Americas Research Project in a program called “Radio EenVandaag”. The item was called “Wetenschap: drugcriminelen met heldenstatus”.
Tune in to listen to the show (in Dutch): http://www.radio1.nl/item/291097-Wetenschap:%20drugcriminelen%20met%20heldenstatus.html