Boston University School of Law

Poverty Tourism and the Problem of Consent

Kyle Powys Whyte
Michigan State University - Department of Philosophy

Evan Selinger
Rochester Institute of Technology - Department of Philosophy

Kevin Outterson
Boston University School of Law


Boston University School of Law Working Paper No. 11-22
(May 25, 2011)

Abstract

Is it morally permissible for financially privileged tourists to visit places for the purpose of experiencing where poor people live, work, and play? Tourism associated with this question is commonly referred to as 'poverty tourism.’ While some poverty tourism is plausibly ethical, other practices will be more controversial. The purpose of this essay is to address mutually beneficial cases of poverty tourism and advance the following positions. First, even mutually beneficial transactions between tourists and residents in poverty tourism always run a risk of being exploitative. Second, there is little opportunity to determine whether a given tour is exploitative since tourists lack good access to the residents' perspectives. Third, if a case of poverty tourism is exploitative, it is so in an indulgent way; tourists are not compelled to exploit the residents. In light of these considerations, we conclude that would-be tourists should participate in poverty tours only if there is a well-established collaborative and consensual process in place, akin to a “fair trade” process.

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Suggested Citation:

Evan Selinger, Kevin Outterson, and Kyle Powys White, "Poverty Tourism and the Problem of Consent,"

Evan Selinger
Associate Professor
 Rochester Institute of Technology - Department of Philosophy
 92 Lomb Memorial Drive
 Rochester, NY 14623-5670
 United States
 (585) 475-2531 (Phone)

Email: evan.selinger@rit.edu

Kevin Outterson
Boston University School of Law
765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215

Email address: mko@bu.edu
Office Phone: (617) 353-3135


Kyle Powys Whyte
Assistant Professor
 Michigan State University - Department of Philosophy
 503 S. Kedzie Hall
 East Lansing, MI 48824
 United States
 5174321034 (Phone)
 5174321320 (Fax)
Email: kwhyte@msu.edu

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