The research aims to theorize the commodification of urban poverty and violence in the context of global mobilities and shifts towards urban political economies of spectacle. Focusing on four sites, this comparative ethnographic project will explore how globally circulating representations of poverty and violence both reproduce and challenge urban inequalities. It will investigate how the urban poor, tourists, tour operators and state actors participate in the unequal encounters involved in so called “inequality tourism”, bringing an actor-focused, on-the-ground and longitudinal approach to the encounters. Including both commercial and grassroots tours, the research places emphasis on the self-positioning and agency of the urban poor within the interplay between residents, tourists, tour operators and state actors. The project’s comparative approach enables a nuanced analysis of the mechanisms and institutions that affect the development of marginalised urban areas. The research has a twin focus on the political economy of slum tours and their representational performative politics.
The project will provide an ethnographic analysis and systematic comparison of the “inequality tourism encounter” in four cities in the Americas:Mexico City, Kingston, Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans.