This is a first hand account of a tour through Dharavi- one of the largest slums in India. While most of the information in the post is not new to me, I appreciate the “first world” perspective that the writer provides. It’s almost impossible to not be the outsider when one goes to informal settlements, whether one is Indian, American or any other ethnicity. One is essentially the other always.
I haven’t been on the tour myself but while undertaking a pilot study in an informal settlement in Delhi, we used a guide and I worried even then of how much having him around was changing the responses that we were getting. I often got the feeling of being an audience while the residents were putting on a performance. This is partly because both Dharavi and Kathputli- where we were undertaking the pilot study are settlements frequented by tourists and researchers alike. There is a certain acceptance of the outsiders being interested and the expectation of monetary compensation for the chance to do the research. It’s an interesting conundrum that I haven’t found my way around yet.