- Touring Trench Town
- Commodifying urban poverty and violence in Kingston, Jamaica
- Award date
- 7 November 2018
- Number of pages
- Document type
- PhD thesis
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
Most tourists who venture to Trench Town, and to the small Culture Yard museum it houses, are drawn in by the area’s rich musical heritage. It is the birthplace of reggae, and where Bob Marley, who grew up in the neighbourhood and famously sung about it, mingled and jammed with other figureheads of Jamaica’s musical scene. The sonic art of Trench Town, along with references to Kingston’s downtown ‘ghetto life’, infuse Jamaican visual and musical culture. While these spark visitors’ wish to experience Trench Town and embark on walking tours of the neighbourhood, they also inform tourist imaginaries of ghetto poverty and crime. Local guides, who (for the most part) live in Trench Town, are aware of tourists’ desires to experience snippets of life tinted by poverty and violence.
In this dissertation, I analyse tourism patterns in Trench Town to understand how low-income residents participate in encounters predicated on the consumption of inequality. My dissertation draws on the case of tourism in Trench Town to address how urban poverty and violence are experienced, sensed and ultimately sold, unpacking the political and economic implications of this form of commodification. This research explores how poverty and violence are transformed into products, and what benefits residents of marginalised – yet destination – neighbourhoods such as Trench Town can derive from selling glimpses of deprivation and conflict. I tie these questions to larger debates in urban studies and anthropology that are concerned with the transformation of places into goods for exchange.
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