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On the Question of Using the Concept ‘Slum Tourism’ for Urban Tourism in Stigmatised Neighbourhoods in Inner City Johannesburg


Since 2012, there has been a significant growth in tourism in inner city Johannesburg. Some of this tourism materialises as walking tours in disadvantaged and relatively poor inner city neighbourhoods, some of which were until recently considered no-go areas. In a paper published in Urban Forum in 2014 (Frenzel 2014), I have analysed this new phenomenon in the context of slum tourism. I define slum tourism as such forms of tourism where poverty and associated signifiers become central themes and (part of the) attraction of the visited destination. Following a broad empirical research project, Hoogendoorn and Giddy (2017) have questioned whether the concept slum tourism should be used when discussing tourism in inner city Johannesburg. This paper forms a response to the paper of Hoogendoorn and Giddy (2017).


In their recent paper “Does it look like a slum? Walking Tours in the Johannesburg Inner City”, Hoogendoorn and Giddy (2017) present findings from their research on inner city tourism in South Africa’s largest city that I observed and first discussed in Urban Forum in 2014 in a paper titled: “Slum Tourism and Urban Regeneration: Touring Inner Johannesburg” (Frenzel 2014).

My paper charted the emergence of new inner city tourism in Johannesburg in the context of urban regeneration and I focused on three tour operators in particular, asking about their intentions, the impact of their activities and the potential role of tourism in urban regeneration of Johannesburg. Hoogendoorn and Giddy in large parts confirm my 2014 observations that inner city tourism in Johannesburg is on the rise, with an empirical focus on five tour operators as well as survey research on participating tourists.

In my original paper, I focused on place-making initiatives that addressed negative place representations of such neighbourhoods as Hillbrow, Yeoville and Brea as dangerous, no-go areas that are better avoided. In the work of tour operators such as ‘This is Hillbrow’ or ‘Past Experience’, I identified attempts to change place perceptions. The main point of my paper was to highlight how these tourism initiatives differed from other ‘place-making’ projects driven by the public and private sectors. I noted the bottom-up character of these initiatives, the fact that profit making was not their primary motive and that they all, in their different ways, worked closely with residents and used the tours to display and highlight the existing social fabric of the neighbourhoods as valuable. The tours, as I observed them, were used to amplify the voices and recognition for the residents in the area and could be considered ‘place making from below’.

Three years on Johannesburg inner city tourism seems to have broadly expanded and changed, according to the data presented in Hoogendoorn and Giddy’s paper. More operators have entered, the overall numbers of visitors has increased and the nature of some of the new tours also seems to differ from the ones I observed in 2014. This changed situation makes the research effort by Hoogendoorn and Giddy very timely. However, their research focus and interest seem to be less concerned with tourism as a place-making social force and only briefly touches on questions such as urban regeneration, displacement and the role of tourism in it.

The article instead is mainly concerned with the question of whether tourism and place making from below in inner Johannesburg can be legitimately considered as part of slum tourism, a question provoked by my article. To test this question, the authors ask whether tourists involved in the examined tours and tour operators themselves consider downtown Johannesburg to be a slum. As a majority of those interviewed reject this, the authors conclude that tourism in downtown Johannesburg cannot be considered ‘slum tourism’.

Hoogendoorn and Giddy also suggest, more critically, that by placing inner city Johannesburg tourism within the rubric of slum tourism, my paper might be contributing to territorial stigma and advancing urban marginality for these areas, and, inter alia, might be undoing the work attempted by tour guides.

A third point of critique concerns my claim, that the slum tourism initiatives I observed in inner city Johannesburg may be better able to prevent displacement of residents in the urban regeneration process than public and private sector initiatives, mainly because they value the existing urban fabric. Hoogendoorn and Giddy reject this idea, because tourism expansion and regeneration always brings with it displacement of former residents.

Every criticism is also recognition and provides the opportunity to sharpen the argument, and I am thankful for the chance to clarify some of my arguments. In this response, my main aim will be to address the criticisms, in some cases reject them and in others more carefully consider them. I will also provide some proposals of where I think research on urban tourism in Johannesburg may focus on in the future.

My response is structured in three parts in which I address initially my use of the concept slum and slum tourism, secondly the question of performativity of research and thirdly the question of urban regeneration. I conclude with some ideas for further research.

The Use of the Concepts Slum and Slum Tourism

In my broader research engagement with questions of tourism and poverty, I understand slum tourism to be a subfield in which instances of tourism in areas of relative urban poverty and slums are compared (Frenzel 2016). With such an approach come the difficulties of every comparison: things to compare cannot be the same, for it would make no sense to compare them; but they also cannot be too different, because it would make no sense to compare totally different things. While conditions of urban poverty differ from place to place, and while tourism to favelas looks different from township tourism, arguably it makes sense to compare these phenomena. This is not only because they are in some ways similar, but also because of the differences between them which allow to qualify and specify the commonalities.

Differences in indicators of poverty do not only occur between different neighbourhoods in which slum tourism takes place. Even within neighbourhoods associated with poverty, income differences exist that make the common characterisation of these neighbourhoods difficult. To stay with examples from South Africa, even within one township, economic and living conditions vary greatly, from almost suburban middle class housing and wealth to informal settlements and poverty. It is remarkable that most township tours display some of this complexity and combine visits to Soweto’s Vilakazi Street with its heritage sites, restaurants and middle class housing with visits to the informal settlements of Kliptown only 2 km away.

Research in the field of slum tourism has provided some answers on how to compare different instances of slum tourism. The key question is one of research interest, or the question of what the research is meant to show. In my 2014 paper, I answered the question as follows: different instances of slum tourism are connected because slums and associated characteristics (no-go areas, danger, poverty) are not only conditions of the environment in which tourism takes place. Instead, they form the main ‘attraction’, the main reason the tourism takes place. Thus, a tour of a neighbourhood that specifically addresses the fact that a neighbourhood is deprived would count as slum tourism, but classical beach tourism that takes place in a Least Developed Country in a context of relative poverty, does not.

This definition allows to answer a question posed in Hoogendoorn and Giddy’s paper, namely, whether slum tourism is about witnessing some form of poverty, which they say would make the definition very ‘wide ranging’ (Hoogendoorn and Giddy 2017, p. 12). I argue that slum tourism is about intentionally witnessing poverty (and related phenomena), poverty becoming a main attraction. To take an example from Hoogendoorn and Giddy’s paper, this may indeed be happening at Times Square, in central London or Berlin, for example, in the context of a homeless tour. Homeless tours have for some time now been discussed in the context of slum tourism, because they also make poverty (and associated phenomena) into an attraction (Burgold 2014).

Beyond arguments over definitions, the question is what specific research interest is served by making comparisons or by discussing certain forms of tourism in the context of slum tourism. In my 2014 paper, the specific interest was in urban regeneration and tourism’s role in it, but of course other questions can and have been asked: how is poverty represented in these tours (Dürr and Jaffe 2012; Dyson 2012; Jones and Sanyal 2015; Meschkank 2010)? What does the political economy of these tours look like (Ekdale 2010; Koens 2012; Rogerson 2004)? Such questions all have been asked in the field of slum tourism, often focused on single case studies, but increasingly in comparative fashion (Burgold and Rolfes 2013; Frenzel and Blakeman 2015, Frenzel 2016). In the third section of the response, I shall return to my specific interest in urban regeneration and the key question of its social consequences.

Let me then rebut the first criticism of my paper for using the descriptor slum tourism for inner city tourism in Johannesburg. I do not use the term slum tourism to describe the inner city of Johannesburg, via this term, as a slum. My research interest is not to identify whether or not inner Johannesburg is a slum. Rather, my point is that, in the described districts of inner city Johannesburg, a form of tourism takes place that has as one of its main attractions that fact that these areas are relatively poor, suffering from territorial stigma and other poverty-related forms of exclusion. It can therefor usefully be compared to other instances in which tourism tackles the issue of inequality and poverty as a theme. I describe the field in which such research is conducted as slum tourism.

While I do not claim that the inner city of Johannesburg is (or is not) a slum, it is in the above sense that I insinuate (as Hoogendoorn and Giddy also argue) that inner city Johannesburg is a location for slum tourism. In the paper, my argument in primarily interested in urban regeneration, i.e. considering the role of tourism in bettering the conditions in which certain districts find themselves. I find that the operators, like in many other instances of slum tourism, have this in mind precisely. They bring tourists to inner city Johannesburg with the aim of altering perceptions, to transfer resources and to improve the neighbourhoods visited while valuing their existing social fabric. This is really comparable to many slum tourism operations across South Africa and in the wider world. In this sense, in my article, I considered inner Johannesburg tours an instant of slum tourism, comparable to other instances of slum tourism in other parts of the world.

What Is a Slum?

In their first criticism of my paper, Hoogendoorn and Giddy aim to show that inner city Johannesburg is not a slum. The problem with the approach is twofold. Firstly, I do not claim that inner city Joburg is a slum. Secondly, even if the question was whether downtown Johannesburg can be considered a slum, would it be sufficient to evaluate this question by asking tourism operators and tourists? Does the fact that 75% of tourists do not think inner Johannesburg is a slum, and that five operators of tours reject the term slum equally, finally settle the question whether downtown Johannesburg should be considered a slum? There are a number of methodological questions that would suggest some caution here.

To start, arguably some other indicators and expert knowledge would have to be consulted before making such a claim. Moreover, let us assume most tourists had decided that inner Johannesburg is indeed a slum: would it thus be scientifically valid to refer to downtown Johannesburg as a slum? And finally, can other destinations where slum tourism takes place, for example townships, legitimately be called slums?

To be clear, I am not arguing that expert discourses may finally settle the question. The literature points in the opposite direction, highlighting the relational character of the concept. Nuissl and Heinrichs (2013, p. 108) point out “Slums are too complex to be defined by a single parameter. Slums are too multifaceted for a slum definition based on a set of criteria that can be universally applied. Slums are too changeable for a permanent slum definition. (…) What is considered a slum and what not is determined by the respective spatial and temporal context”. Such views are broadly shared in the contemporary discourse, for example, also by the United Nations (2003, p. 11).

My own work with tour operators and tourists has often shown that they have an acute awareness of contemporary discourses of urban renewal, poverty and economic development. Expert and tourist discourses actually overlap on the complex definitions of terms such as ‘slums’ or ‘informal neighbourhoods’. Expressions like the one cited in Hoogendoorn and Giddy’s paper: “I have seen worse”, point to the comparative work tourists themselves are engaged in. A certain overlap between tourist and expert discourses is perhaps surprising, but I found explanations for it in my research (Frenzel and Blakeman 2015). Often ‘expert’ views are formed in encounters shaped by guides who also work in the more mundane tourism trade. Slum research may be closer to slum tourism than many researchers would like to admit (Frenzel 2016).

Thus, it is really useful to investigate, as Hoogendoorn and Giddy do, what ideas about a place and its status tourists have, how their views are shaped by the tour experiences and how they compare to expert discourses. But, to understand such nuances, it would be methodologically important to pursue a qualitative research approach in which tourists are not surveyed but interviewed and observed. In the survey format that Hoogendoorn and Giddy chose, there is an assumption about a primary shared understanding of what a slum is. But, as some of the more qualitative answers in the research show, understanding of what a slum is seems to vary widely, including the rather disturbing idea that a slum is a place of ‘unfriendly people’. Would it not be much more illuminating to discuss what tourists had seen and how they evaluated it overall, rather than posing a simple yes-no question on an indicator that has not been defined?

I am also sceptical whether the tour operators’ clear rejection of considering their own practices as slum tourism can be simply taken as conclusive evidence without further qualification. Operators may reject the name ‘slum tourism’ because of the fear of negative perceptions of their own practices as exploitative and voyeuristic. The qualitative interviews reveal that many of them intend to change perceptions about downtown Johannesburg, some of them directly concerned with neglect and relative poverty. They may not associate such intentions with slum tourism. However, within slum tourism research, such intentions are very frequent and comparable, allowing researchers to compare practices between different places.

Despite my reservations about the research design, I think Hoogendoorn and Giddy’s data does provide some crucial insights. The surveyed tourists’ motivations, for example, seem to indicate that relatively few tourists were interested directly in issues most closely associated with slums, like poverty and deprivation, when they opted to join a tour. According to my own prior mentioned definition, this would exclude most of them from engaging in slum tourism. Unfortunately, it is not clear whether the survey handed out had provided fixed answers for tourists to tick or whether the questionnaire was open for tourists to write down their intentions.

It is also not clear how many of the overall sampled tourists came from which specific tour. This matters because, in my research, the ‘free walking tour’ had not been featured. I had specifically discussed tours in Hillbrow, Brea and Yeoville, areas widely associated with poverty (Winkler 2013). Is it possible that most sampled tourists in Hoogendoorn and Giddy’s sample had signed up to the ‘free walking tour’ of the city rather than one of the more specific tour tailored to Hillbrow or Yeoville neighbourhoods?

Regardless of such questions, Hoogendoorn and Giddy’s research shows that inner city tourism in Johannesburg has massively increased, with a number of new operators and attractions emerging in the last 3 years. This is likely to include a larger number of tours that no longer fit the proposed definition of slum tourism as a form of tourism that makes relative deprivation into a theme.

The Performativity of Research

Despite the missed trajectory of the criticism and its questionable methodology, Hoogendoorn and Giddy’s paper expresses a very legitimate and valid concern about the performativity of academic writing and concepts. Applied to the question discussed, this concern is expressed when Hoogendoorn and Giddy ask whether my academic writing might potentially contribute to the territorial stigma of areas described as locations for slum tourism. In economics research, the idea of performativity is central to a critical reading of the power of research. One key example often discussed in the literature is how liberal economic ideas, such as the profit maximising ‘homo economicus’ did not so much describe reality but formed a central part in constructing a economically liberal reality with people actually behaving like ‘homo economicus’. Research and its concepts are here not understood as representations of an external reality. Rather, the concepts and ideas shape reality, perform it into being (Callon 1998).

The performativity question is of course central to research on slums, considering the pejorative meaning for the concept. The term slum was originally, and remains in colloquial use, a derogatory term, invented in the nineteenth century for the new urban phenomenon of informal neighbourhoods (Nuissl and Hinrichs 2013). Accordingly, slums were associated with crime, dirt and disease. Researchers often contributed to such association when research methodologies affirmed the association of slums and drug trade or prostitution, for example, while ignoring that consumers as well as profiteers of such illicit pursuits were often from the wealthy neighbourhoods of the city. Some researchers have argued that the concept of slum is not useful for academic pursuit, not only because of its derogatory meanings but also because it obscures the diversity of experiences behind slums (Gilbert 2007). Others, like Mike Davis (2006), continue to use the term to denounce the apocalyptic conditions with the aim of scandalising the neglect slum areas receives. Yet, others see slums as spaces of potential, ingenuity and emergent urbanity (Soto 1989; Turner 1976). In all these uses of the concept slum, a particular politics, or performativity of the concept, is more or less openly intended, either to push for an eradication of slums or alternatively for a broader recognition.

Considering the actual policies that research influences, it is observable that slum clearance as the main policy response to slums has long been abandoned. Today, diverse policies of ‘slum upgrading’ are more dominant in urban development, reflective of the more positive discourse about slums as places of potential.

I have argued (Frenzel 2016) that the ‘return of the slum’ (Gilbert 2007) as a concept is directly connected to the return of the slum as a social concern. A social concern arises when a social phenomenon is recognised and visible as a problem. As new housing policies and social welfare reduced slum conditions in the Global North in the second half of the twentieth century, slums started to grow in the Global South as a result of increasing rural to urban migration. These emergent slums initially were a concern only of those countries in which they occurred. Today, urban growth takes place almost exclusively in slums, while global mobility patterns mean that migration into the cities moves across national boundaries. Slums form large part of cities in the developing world but they also return to the Global North, for example, in the form of homeless tent cities and refugee camps.

So, the question of what to do, how to deal with and how to understand slums is back on the agenda globally (UN 2003). In this context, the concept ‘slum’ is widely used in academic and practitioner discourses. This is partly because researchers see distinct opportunities in this social phenomenon and no longer understand slum to be a negative or derogative term. Across the board, the concept is today used critically, that is reflective of its problematic history, the performative character of research and the continuous negative use in colloquial language (Nuissl and Heinrich 2013).

How Slumming Made the Slum

In my work, I have been guided by two reflections. Firstly, I use the term slum in a critical fashion, attempting to change its meaning rather than to shy away from using the concept or from seeing it as eternally negative. I am driven partly by the observation that alternative terms such as ‘territorial stigma’, ‘advanced marginality’ or ‘hotpots’ can and do very easily turn into stigmatising concepts themselves, certainly when applied outside academic research. Changing the terms does not solve the problem of performativity. It would thus make no big difference, I posit, to rename the field of research I describe as slum tourism as ‘areas of urban poverty tourism’. Rather, I try to do what political economists have described as ‘critical performativity’ (Leca et al. 2014; Spicer et al. 2009). This aims at changing the way ‘slums’ and ‘tourism’ are understood and enacted in the world.

This leads me, secondly, to proposing that the social practice of slum tourism or historically ‘slumming’ plays a very important role in defining the concept of slum. Early slumming practices in the nineteenth century and early urban tourism were crucial in forming broader popular understanding of the ‘lives of the other half’ and to render slums form a social phenomenon to a social and political concern (Koven 2004; Steinbrink 2012). Early slumming was often highly stigmatising, spatialising social and political problems of the whole city in specific neighbourhoods. But, because of the variety of experiences and cross-class encounters enabled by such practices as slumming, it was also the beginning of critical discourse to address and redress previous invisibility and neglect. Nineteenth century slumming involved stigmatising ‘Othering’ of the slum and its inhabitants (Seaton 2012; Steinbrink 2012) but also provided the backdrop for more political engagements and coalitions across class boundaries, as well as new care practices and social philanthropy (Windscheffel and Koven 2007). If slumming made the slum, it also led to the criticism of its existence and eventually the attempts to end slum conditions. In tourism research, I understand critical performativity to provide evidence and concepts that enable tourism to be rendered into a social practice that questions social inequality. This drives my research interest in the role of slum tourism in urban regeneration and this is why I focused on cases in which the social critique of the territorial stigma that befall certain neighbourhoods of Johannesburg is directly addressed and questioned.

The Question of Displacement in Urban Regeneration

There is a third criticism in Hoogendoorn and Giddy’s paper and this concerns the role of tourism in urban regeneration and in particular its social impacts. Here, I think the criticism is based on a misreading of my argument. Hoogendoorn and Giddy (2017:12) claim: “However to argue that slum tourism can enhance re-vitalisation without replacement is problematic at best and we would argue that urban renewal rarely happens without displacement. The renewal that has taken place thus far in the Johannesburg inner city has already led to the displacement of a number of people.”

In my article, I did not claim that no displacement was taking place. Rather, I posited the opposite, namely, that urban regeneration often leads to displacement. Indeed, low-value real estate, neighbourhoods of territorial stigma and with limited public services, provide housing solutions for the urban poor. The transformation of neighbourhoods in urban regeneration often threatens such spaces of the poor as real estate regimes are formalised, utility provision is expanded or re-established and housing costs increase (Wacquant 2008).

In my paper, I drew from existing research on Johannesburg’s regeneration to describe the urban-policy led development of Newtown. This project was inspired and modelled on regeneration policies in the Global North, looking to replace industrial and manufacturing businesses with new cultural industries. Accordingly, Newtown was built around new museums and large public spaces. A second wave of urban regeneration in Johannesburg that I discussed in more detail concerned projects driven by large private sector real estate investors. Again, the models were derived from elsewhere and applied in the Johannesburg inner city. In my article, I quoted mainly from existing research that evaluated the formation of the Maboneng district (Bahmann and Frenkel 2012). Bahmann and Frenkel gave a balanced assessment of the development. On the one hand, it was provided that Maboneng differed importantly from the suburban shopping centres and enclaves that dominate much of the urban experience of elite and middle class South Africans. Bahmann and Frenkel described these as fortified enclaves where any contact to the rest of the (poorer) city was impossible. In contrast, Maboneng offered street level engagement and provided the possibility of cross-class encounters. Bahmann and Frenkel found no evidence for displacement by the project but later research has questioned this assessment. Indeed, as Maboneng expanded, more and more formerly low rental housing units are transformed into new apartments and commercial real estate (Gregory 2016). Moreover, the initial development in Maboneng already did little to acknowledge and value the existing social fabric of the area prior to the arrival of the project. The enclave character of the area, with designated security guards and clear boundaries, remains. While the developers have clearly stated social and political intentions in their project, they have never made a secret out of the fact that the main impetus of their project was to profit from urban regeneration financially.

The relative success of Maboneng and the prior redevelopment of Bramfortein were driven to quite some extent by a rediscovery of the centre of Johannesburg as a place of interest, visitation and cool by South African elites and emerging middle classes (who are no longer exclusively white). In this overall development, tourism plays a crucial part and my paper aimed to show how tourism could potentially provide an alternative to state- and capital-led regeneration.

Thus, I posited a third category of regeneration as place making from below. In this category, I consider initiatives that aim to transform dominant readings of downtown Johannesburg as no-go areas and dangerous places like those tours I investigated. Crucially, they do not hinge on large public or private investments and they were not pursued to generate profits. The main aspects of such place making from below were already mentioned. Such approaches worked closely with residents of the inner city; they valued, in their narratives, the existing social fabric and highlighted the positive and enriching aspects of urban live in these areas. Tourists with their taste for difference are an important audience for such initiatives, particularly when local middle classes and elites remain hesitant. They may bridge and disturb local value regimes, teach local elites about the value of places and enter such zones with less prejudice. In such place making from below, I saw also the emergence of power, understood as a condition of the ability to act in common to achieve better representation in local policy. The combination of these factors led me to argue that place making from below in slum tourism initiatives can help to prevent displacement in urban regeneration processes for at least two reasons: (1) because the existing urban fabric is valued and (2) because local voices were empowered in the process.

My argument is that regeneration practices, including slum tourism that value the existing social fabric and include local residents, will be less likely to cause displacement than the place-making initiative driven by the state and profit-oriented private sector initiatives.

Conclusions and Further Research

This paper is mainly a response to Hoogendoorn and Giddy’s paper in which they voice three criticisms of my research on slum tourism in Johannesburg inner city. I discuss these three criticisms in turn. The first argument is about whether or not inner city Johannesburg can be considered a slum, or an area where slum tourism takes place. I do not claim the former but I do argue for the latter. In their paper, Hoogendoorn and Giddy mainly address the former, embarking on a research project that intents to settle the question whether or not downtown Johannesburg is a slum by asking tourists on tours in the city and by discussing the question with tour operators. In addition to rebutting this research approach, my aim in this paper was to show that definitions of what a slum is are always relational and that even expert discourses do not necessarily have fixed answers to the question when an area can be legitimately described as a slum.

I posit the relevance of tourist discourses about slums and deprived neighbourhoods, and I suggested further research that asks tourists about their impressions before and after the tour, with open research questions that allow them to clarify their understandings of relative deprivation and urban marginality.

I maintain that tourism in downtown Johannesburg can be considered slum tourism in such instances where the tours deliberately focus on the relative poverty, deprivation and neglect that continue to befall some parts of the inner city. This is in accordance with my understanding of slum tourism as a field of research where poverty is the main attraction. On this basis, comparisons can be made to tourism in other places, with similar intentions.

One of the issues highlighted by Hoogendoorn and Giddy’s data is the fact that tourism in downtown Johannesburg has expanded in recent years. This means that some, perhaps even the majority, of the tourists they interviewed in their project had joined tours that did not make relative poverty and associated phenomena central to their narratives. I would argue that these do not constitute slum tourism.

It would be great to look into this question in further analysis of the data Hoogendoorn and Giddy collected. Moreover, the question could be raised to what extent slum tourism was the pioneering tourism activity in downtown Johannesburg. With its success that I described in my research (Frenzel 2014, 2016) what role did slum tourism have in prompting a wider urban tourism phenomenon that no longer makes poverty into a theme? This is particularly relevant, as evidence from other African cities seems to suggest that slum tourism is often the first form of urban tourism to emerge. Further research should investigate the pioneering role of slum tourism for urban tourism development in African cities.

In response to the second criticism, I accept that my description of downtown Johannesburg as a place where slum tourism occurs may be enhancing the stigma that already befalls the inner city. The performativity of research means that academic concepts have influence in the real world, modify behaviour and impact on decisions by individual and collective actors. My response is that I do not think other alternative terms to describe the inner city would erase this danger. Calling the inner city a place of territorial stigma, of advanced urban marginality or alternatively ‘diverse and vibrant’ can equally function as confirmation and enhancement of stigma, or as code meant to gloss over existing difficulties. Instead of questioning the use of specific terms, I advocate an approach informed by critical performativity. This means consciously using and employing the power of academic concepts to shape and reshape discourses. It involves a critical informed use of concepts, like slum, that understands its history and politics. As I have argued, slum tourism can be understood as generative of different understandings of slum; thus, the crucial question becomes how such tourism is organised and this question guides my research interest.

The third criticism is based, in some way, on a misreading of my argument regarding the role of slum tourism initiatives in urban regeneration. I did not claim that urban regeneration does not cause displacement. Rather, my argument was about the tourism initiatives I discussed specifically. These, I argued, were less likely to cause displacement than other urban regeneration schemes as pursued by state actors and profit-driven private actors.

In line with my argument for a critical performativity of research, my original paper aimed to highlight the possibilities of place making from below. This included a discussion of the techniques used, the approaches different actors had and their limits and possibilities. It is my research interest to find ways in which urban regeneration can be successful not just for middle and upper classes but for those that have made slums, disadvantaged and stigmatised neighbourhoods their home. Slum tourism, tourism that is deliberately seeking out such places, can be part of the process of place making from below, by providing visibility and recognition, resources and livelihoods to the existing social fabric.


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Correspondence to Fabian Frenzel.

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Frenzel, F. On the Question of Using the Concept ‘Slum Tourism’ for Urban Tourism in Stigmatised Neighbourhoods in Inner City Johannesburg. Urban Forum 29, 51–62 (2018).

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  • Johannesburg
  • Urban tourism
  • Regeneration
  • Slum tourism
  • Displacement