AskDefine | Define slumming

Dictionary Definition

slum n : a district of a city marked by poverty and inferior living conditions [syn: slum area] v : visit slums for entertainment or out of curiosity [also: slumming, slummed]slumming See slum

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. present participle of slum

Extensive Definition

Slumming (derived from slum) originally referred to a practice, fashionable among certain segments of the middle class in many Western countries, whereby one deliberately patronizes areas or establishments which are populated by, or intended for, people well below one's own socio-economic level, motivated by curiosity or a desire for adventure. Most often these establishments take the form of bars or restaurants in low-income areas.
Recreational slumming was popular in Victorian London, where omnibus rides through Whitechapel were in vogue. Similarly, slumming tours were documented through the Five Points slums in Manhattan during the 1840s.
It's also associated with the middle 1980s, as an outgrowth of the yuppie subculture. The sense that upper-class establishments were phony, overpriced, and affected (ironically, the very criticisms leveled at yuppies themselves) made it fashionable among middle-class professionals to frequent "dives", due to their supposed authenticity and local color.
"Slumming" (also known as "class tourism" ) has come to refer to many activities that involve interaction with the less fortunate, especially when motivated by curiosity, adventure, laziness, boredom, and even outright greed and miserliness. The term, and to some extent, the practice, have consequently acquired an unpleasant connotation, having become associated with condescension, exploitation, affectation, and bourgeois insensitivity. Unlike bohemianism or voluntary simplicity, slumming rarely involves more than a temporary or superficial commitment on the part of its participants; it is by nature a touristic or voyeuristic activity.
In Good Will Hunting, for example, the main character uses "slumming" to describe sexual relationships between rich, well-educated girls and poorer boys, whom they might encounter around their universities.


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