Volunteer Tourism: Popular Humanitarianism in Neoliberal Times, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Volunteer Tourism

Popular Humanitarianism in Neoliberal Times, 1st Edition

By Mary Mostafanezhad


176 pages

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Crossing disciplinary and chronological boundaries, Volunteer Tourism: Popular Humanitarianism in Neoliberal Times is the first full-length treatment of volunteer tourism from a longitudinal ethnographic perspective. Volunteer tourism, one of the fastest growing niche tourism markets in the world, is a type of tourism in which tourists pay to participate in conservation, humanitarian or development oriented projects. Volunteer Tourism is a comprehensive and comparative study of the perspectives of Thai host community members, NGO practitioners and international volunteer tourists. The book thus shines an ethnographic lens onto the complexities and contradictions of the volunteer tourism experience in northern Thailand. Drawing on cross-disciplinary perspectives in geography and anthropology as well as development, tourism and cultural studies, Volunteer Tourism illustrates how a focus on sentimentality in the volunteer tourism encounter obscures the structural inequalities on which the experience is based. Such a focus situates volunteer tourism within the commodification and sentimentalization of development and global justice agendas, which hail the new moral consumer and reframe questions of structural inequality as questions of individual morality. As a result, albeit inadvertently, the practice of volunteer tourism serves the continued expansion of the cultural logics and economic practices of neoliberalism.


'This pioneering study seeks to dispel the naïve humanitarian illusions about voluntarism as a panacea for the social ills of neoliberal state policies and to show how that activity became commodified and absorbed by the capitalist system, thus unwittingly helping to strengthen it. Its key message is that good intentions can be exploited to maintain the social conditions they seek to ameliorate.' Erik Cohen, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel ’Morality tourism� is the latest stage in the evolution of means to satisfy the biopsychosocial needs of Western (and non-Western) urban, alienated middle classes. Mary Mostafanezhad’s long experience in Northern Thailand where a plethora of NGOs and volunteers express the Peace Corps effect� allows her to show us the possibilities of both danger and hope for sentimentality-based development activities, contextualized by her erudite discussion of our neoliberal world system.’ Nelson Graburn, University of California, Berkeley, USA ’While excoriating volunteer tourism's neoliberal underpinnings, this marvellous study also documents its transformative cosmopolitan hope for tourists, humanitarian organizations, and host communities that engage. A must read for anyone wanting to understand tourism's potential for social justice, and why this is so difficult to achieve.’ Margaret Byrne Swain, University of California, Davis, USA 'From Mostafanezhad’s engagement with geopolitics of hope, it is clear that she wishes to show the emancipatory potential underlying this tourism niche. The value of this book is unmistakable as Mostafanezhad’s optimistic tone but theoretically charged discussions further moral deliberations of humanitarianism and tourism by illuminating current policies and practices that ultimately sustain the political, economic, and social inequalities on which volunteer tourism is based.' Annals of Tourism Research

About the Author

Dr Mary Mostafanezhad is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Hawai'i at M�noa, Hawai'i.

About the Series

New Directions in Tourism Analysis

New Directions in Tourism Analysis
Although tourism is becoming increasingly popular as both a taught subject and an area for empirical investigation, the theoretical underpinnings of many approaches have tended to be eclectic and somewhat underdeveloped. However, recent developments indicate that the field of tourism studies is beginning to develop in a more theoretically informed manner, but this has not yet been matched by current publications. The aim of this series is to fill this gap with high quality monographs or edited collections that seek to develop tourism analysis at both theoretical and substantive levels using approaches which are broadly derived from allied social science disciplines such as Sociology, Social Anthropology, Human and Social Geography, and Cultural Studies. As tourism studies covers a wide range of activities and sub fields, certain areas such as Hospitality Management and Business, which are already well provided for, would be excluded. The series will therefore fill a gap in the current overall pattern of publication. Suggested themes to be covered by the series, either singly or in combination, include - consumption; cultural change; development; gender; globalisation; political economy; social theory; sustainability.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Industries / Hospitality, Travel & Tourism
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General