Consuming authenticity: pleasure, benefit and harm in ‘transactional intimacy’ and ‘slum tourism’

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This paper uses Bernstein’s concept of ‘bounded authenticity’ (2007) to explore the benefits, pleasures and harms of seeking to consume managed ‘authentic’ experiences. This work brings together the respective interests of the authors, in sex work and tourism, by focusing on two case studies: (1) transactional intimacy and (2) slum tourism. We situate our discussion in the context of Raymen’s 2018 paper, which explores how both liberal individualism and the absence of a unified normative framework have impeded a collective definition of ‘social harm’ and ‘the good’.

Our analysis of both practices of transactional intimacy and slum tourism indicate that the benefits accrue mainly to the consumer. From a liberal individualist and economic perspective, those involved in selling authenticity may also be empowered financially and personally. However, we argue that consuming authenticity too often relies on, and reproduces, existing inequalities, either within the transaction space or by displacement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-124
JournalJustice, Power and Resistance
Issue number2
Early online date1 Dec 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Dec 2019

Structured keywords

  • SPS Centre for Gender and Violence Research
  • Transactional intimacy
  • Slum tourism
  • Authenticity
  • Harm
  • Consumption


  • consumption
  • bounded authenticity
  • transactional intimacy
  • slum tourism
  • harm


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