Rodanthi Tzanelli's Weblog

In this weblog I post updates on my teaching, research and publications, as well as other relevant academic activities.

Business as usual? Transforming Brazilian slumscapes in hyper-neoliberal digital environments

Too much ink has been spent on examining the socio-economic conditions under which shantytowns emerge as urban enclaves and develop into unique lifeworlds. As ‘cities within global cities’, such as Delhi, Cape Town, Kingston, Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro (Frenzel Koens and Steinbrink 2012), but also as spaces declared by various constituencies in a ‘permanent state of exception’ (Agamben 1998), slums harbour postmodern ethical contradictions. This is so because of their increasing marketing as alternative holidays for those who can afford the ticket and are bored enough with luxury hotels. These tourists look for new experiences of gazing, listening, performing or living like the ‘destitute other’ under exotic cultural conditions – but only for a few days. Alongside such ego-enhancing journeys (Dann 1977) that facilitate expressions of – usually Western but also non-Western affluent – individualism (Giddens 1991), there are genuine, if at times misguided, humanitarian gestures. These may include independent charity projects or documentaries and other recorded testimonies on living conditions in the slum, widely disseminated across the world by independent artists. The distant humanitarian gaze produces all the right emotions to the gazer who never visited these places; not using those affective-come-emotional means to help others would contradict the nature of middle-class radicalism (Crossley 2003).

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