Sm gaze reality tourism_13


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The release of Slumdog Millionaire (2008, director Danny Boyle) gave new boost to a form of tourism in Mumbai’s shantytowns. This tourism involves especially Western visits to the slums with a purpose learn about life in them (and occasionally donate). Such slumming thrives in Dharavi’s megaslum but as tourist business is still monopolised by one company that maintains good relations with the community, there are rules: no photos, no avoiding touch and no covering one’s nose during the tour. In this presentation I unpack the significance of such community-imposed rules from an epistemological viewpoint. In other words, I explore what these rules reveal about Indian ways of knowing and communicating with tourists as well as how tourist influx modifies local knowledge and interaction.

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Sm gaze reality tourism_13

  1. 1. Dr Rodanthi Tzanelli ( Manipulating the Western tourist gaze in Mumbai‟s slums Image Lecercle, Flickr (Creative Commons)
  2. 2. Mumbai‟s celebrity status • A regional and national financial „articulation‟ with over 18million population that is growing fast • Home of Bollywood industry with its own airport and… • its own slum „problem‟ thriving due to its prohibitive estate market (amongst other reasons) • About 55% of residents live in its shantytowns, and most of them in its megaslum, Dharavi
  3. 3. Dharavi: snuggling between Mumbai‟s two main train stations and next to its airport Image Mark Hillary, Flickr (Creative Commons)
  4. 4. Dispelling wrong impressions about Dharavi • Home to about 15,000 small businesses • Home of Mumbai’s sole efficient recycling industry • Home of multicultural communities: Tamils, Muslims, south Indians, Maharashtrians, Konk anis, potters, leather workers, plastic recyclers, goldsmiths, garment workers, craftsmen Image Padmanaba01 (top) and Lececle (bottom), Flickr (Creative Commons)
  5. 5. And filming ground for Slumdog Millionaire in 2008 • Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, directors Danny Boyle and (India) Loveen Tandan • The film scooped Oscars and became popular in UK and US with Indian version also released • Plot: A Mumbai teen who grew up in the slums, becomes a contestant on the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" He is arrested under suspicion of cheating, and while being interrogated, events from his life history are shown which explain why he knows the answers (see IMDB) • Some scenes shot in Mumbai’s slums, including Dharavi but….
  6. 6. …it mainly enhanced Dharavi as global slum tourist destination • Main tour operator Reality Tours collaborates with communities • Tour guides recruited also from slum localities • 80% of profits donated to slum projects (education, hygiene, health etc…) • See video on Reality Tours website Photo Thomas Galvez, Flickr (Creative Commons)
  7. 7. Tour programme and code • RECYCLING AREA Old computers, parts and plastics come from all over the world to Dharavi to be recycled. See the recycling plants in which separation and melting of plastics takes place. • ROOFTOP VISIT There is nothing like the view from a Dharavi factory rooftop. The tin hutments that house so many human lives stretch on as far as you can see, and birds screech overhead in the blue sky. You will never forget this view! • BISCUIT BAKERY Taste the tea biscuits that you can buy anywhere in Mumbai, hot and fresh at the source! • POPADDOM MAKING Watch the women of Dharavi make popaddoms, the essential appetizer of any Indian meal, by baking them on wooden baskets that are turned upside-down. • VISIT TO A RESIDENT‟S HOUSE Gain an understanding of how the incredible people of Dharavi live. • KUMBHARWADA POTTERY COLONY Watch artisans create all types of pots out of unfired, sundried clay. • COMMUNITY CENTRE The Community Centre, supported by funds from the tour, provides education in English, computers and other soft skills to the teenagers and young adults of Dharavi. Other activities take place here such as a library and indoor games. Visitors experience what matters most to Reality Tours... the men, women and children that make this dynamic community one of the most vibrant places in Mumbai. BUT NO CAMERA POLICY for the whole tour (really? )
  8. 8. Are Dharavi‟s residents object of fascination for foreign visitors? • Global boom in „slum tourism‟: African slums, New Delhi (Saalam Bombay), Mumbai (Slumdog Millionaire), Rio de Janeiro etc… • Fascination with poverty leads to accusations of performing „poorism‟: the affluent world gazing upon other‟s life, tribulations and misery… • Tourist gaze (Urry 2002; Urry and Larsen 2011) suggests practices of gazing upon other cultures organised by tourist industry • Ethical issues abound….
  9. 9. Humans gazed upon not passive recipients of tourist gaze • The local gaze „based on a more complex, two-sided picture, where both the tourist and local gazes exist, affecting and feeding each other‟ (Maoz 2006: 222). • Ethnographic work in India revealed that localities perceive of tourists as hedonistic, shallow, rude and „badly educated and easily deceived‟ (ibid. 225) – an viewpoint occasionally available in the international press by educated slumdwellers. • Twin response to gazing as submission or internalisation and resistance or rejection might also unveil the workings of „staged authenticity‟ online (also MacCannell 1973). • What is wilfully perceived as reciprocity and hospitality is in fact a form of veiled resistance, a resentful gaze back at the source of tourist gazing • Herzfeld: „the increasing inferiority of the non-reciprocating guest reaches its extreme in the selfish and insensitive tourist, who finds that “the natives are friendly” but fails to understand that this friendliness masks an enduring contempt‟ (Herzfeld 1992: 61; Tzanelli 2010: 116; Tzanelli 2011)
  10. 10. Local performances, resistance and the „counter-gaze‟ in Dharavi • No photos policy and no covering nose demand of localities • Emphasis on local industriousness, lack of tips policy, and even cleanliness of children that are properly educated • Emphasis on family bonds and local camaraderie or guild consciousness also projected online (Reality Tours website, global journalists‟ tours) Image Padmanaba01, Flickr (Creative Commons)
  11. 11. Discussion: is there real resistance? • Self-conscious of foreign understandings of what is clean, proper, orderly and „civilised‟ behaviour and environment • Parallel protests against release of Slumdog Millionaire betray reaction against particular practices of „gazing‟ as demeaning • Expectation of fair remuneration by tourist provider • Banning access to sensory pleasure for tourists on location – everything can be re-constructed and re-narrated from memory only • Thus experience tied to 1. Western conceptions of industry and industriousness for community to be re-dignified 2. National conceptions of nation- building and the original people