, Volume 76, Issue 1, pp 47–62 | Cite as

Investigations into slum tourism in Mumbai: poverty tourism and the tensions between different constructions of reality

  • Julia MeschkankEmail author


The paper seeks to contribute to the recent slum tourism-debate. On the basis of an empirical field study conducted in Mumbai in 2009, this article investigates how Indian slums are observed by different actors within the communication context of this (emerging) form of tourism. Taking into consideration that slums are defined in public discourse nearly exclusively by poverty and sordidness, it is interesting to examine how the tour agency’s objective of correcting the negative connotations of poverty is achieved. Accordingly, the study aims, by means of a second order observation, to observe how the tourists and the tour agency simultaneously perceive and charge poverty. Following the epistemological premise that reality is an observer-dependent construction, it seeks to outline which different images or realities of the investigated slum, Dharavi, are created by the different observations. The findings will then facilitate a discussion of the extent to which poverty can be defined as the dominant mode of observation of the slum tourism context as a whole.


Poverty tourism Slum tourism Township Favela Slum Observational-theoretical approach 



This article is a summary of my unpublished master thesis submitted in July 2009 at the Department of Geography, University of Potsdam. I wish to thank the interviewees for sharing their experiences, Cory Goldberg for his photos, Rakesh, Krishna Poojari and Chris Way from Reality Tours and Travel as well as Sebastian Burgold for their helpful support, Manfred Rolfes for his thorough and insightful comments and suggestions, Gisela Spehr, Naomi and Paul for revising this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of PotsdamPotsdamGermany

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