In recent years a growing number of associations have developed projects in what has been called ‘voluntourism’. According to the definition given by Stephen Wearing, volunteer tourism is a form of travel where tourists ‘volunteer in an organized way in order to undertake holidays that might involve aiding or alleviating the material poverty of some groups in society, the restoration of certain environments or research into aspects of society or environment.’ In this sense, voluntourism has often been seen as a powerful tool for social development, as well as a way to reduce social distance while advancing cross-cultural understanding, dialogue, and peace. However, a closer look at voluntourism discloses a less idyllic scenario. My paper is based on a research conducted through in-depth interviews with a group of 29 young Italian adults, and it presents analysis of the discursive construction of their experience as volunteer tourists in the Global South. In particular in this contribution the practice of voluntourism is investigated by paying a particular attention on how the respondents represent themselves in respect to both their personal experience as volunteer tourists, and to the host population. The results show that the capacity of this form of tourism to bring about cultural understanding, reduce stereotypes, and foster peace, is not undisputed. Indeed, the idea of otherness is often radicalized in the narratives of volunteer tourists, or it is used to establish differences rather than common grounds for mutual understanding. This is due to the combination of various factors, such as the unequal power relation often established between volunteers and the local population, as well as the powerful role played by persistent neo-colonialism imageries.

Encountering the ‘Other’, or Encountering the Self? The Construction of Otherness into Voluntourism Experiences.

GIUS, CHIARA
2012

Abstract

In recent years a growing number of associations have developed projects in what has been called ‘voluntourism’. According to the definition given by Stephen Wearing, volunteer tourism is a form of travel where tourists ‘volunteer in an organized way in order to undertake holidays that might involve aiding or alleviating the material poverty of some groups in society, the restoration of certain environments or research into aspects of society or environment.’ In this sense, voluntourism has often been seen as a powerful tool for social development, as well as a way to reduce social distance while advancing cross-cultural understanding, dialogue, and peace. However, a closer look at voluntourism discloses a less idyllic scenario. My paper is based on a research conducted through in-depth interviews with a group of 29 young Italian adults, and it presents analysis of the discursive construction of their experience as volunteer tourists in the Global South. In particular in this contribution the practice of voluntourism is investigated by paying a particular attention on how the respondents represent themselves in respect to both their personal experience as volunteer tourists, and to the host population. The results show that the capacity of this form of tourism to bring about cultural understanding, reduce stereotypes, and foster peace, is not undisputed. Indeed, the idea of otherness is often radicalized in the narratives of volunteer tourists, or it is used to establish differences rather than common grounds for mutual understanding. This is due to the combination of various factors, such as the unequal power relation often established between volunteers and the local population, as well as the powerful role played by persistent neo-colonialism imageries.
Landscapes of (Un)Belonging. Reflections on Strangeness and the Self
31
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Chiara Gius
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/155146
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