Vijay Prashad review of Rumour of Calcutta

In Light of Calcutta by Vijay Prashad
The Kathmandu Post Review of Books
30 November, 1997Vol. 2, No. 8

“John Hutnyk’s book does not tell us of the visions of the city among its long-term inhabitants. His book introduces the people who travel to South Asia on a budget, mostly from North America, Europe and Australia. ‘Budget travellers’ come not to bask in the glory of the Raj, but to explore the underbelly of Asia and to do some volunteer work as a means to assuage their guilt or redeem themselves. Despite their best motives, Hutnyk explains, these travellers do not question how they see the city. They have heard the ‘rumour of Calcutta, the imagery by which the city is known’…”

“The “good tourists” (who abjure the “veranda view” of the 5-Stars
and packaged tours) offer themselves to NGOs to ameliorate poverty. Many
are smart enough to know their own work does little. As Julia notes, her
work appears sometimes like “putting band-aid on lepers in the hope of
stopping capitalism”.  Hutnyk is very clear about these efforts (such as
those of the Missionaries of Charity), arguing that the NGOs act “as a
stopgap anti-revolutionary and counter-revolutionary placebo”‘

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