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Transformational Journeys: Volunteer Tourism, Non-Elite Youth and the Politics of the Self

Judge, REC; (2016) Transformational Journeys: Volunteer Tourism, Non-Elite Youth and the Politics of the Self. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines short volunteer tourism trips involving young people from non-elite backgrounds, run by youth groups based on London council estates and travelling to Kenya and Zimbabwe. Based on ethnographic work both in the UK and during trips, this thesis argues that participants narrate the trips as sites of self-transformation. They see themselves as becoming more ‘grateful’ for their relative wealth, ‘charitable’, and ‘aspirational’ in terms of having the desire and dreams to make their own future. Though these findings echo those pertaining to middle-class volunteers, there is a disciplinary aspect to the way imaginaries of personal transformation through volunteer tourism mesh with longer-standing efforts at reforming working-class youth, and amplify pressures on young subjects to take individual responsibility for their own betterment. Rather than examine these problematic politics as an imposition of discursive power, this thesis makes a close reading of emotion and affect in volunteer tourism. Affective circulations, embodied acts, and cultivated emotions constitute depoliticised approaches to global poverty and national inequality and give them a visceral felt authenticity. However, emotional intensities also disrupt the overarching narrative. Young people emphasise their enjoyment of the trips as spaces of collective fun rather than individual reform, express desires to connect across transnational difference, and contrast their enjoyment of status and meaningful labour abroad with the constraints they face in UK society. This thesis argues that volunteer tourism is a site for subject formation that is deeply entangled with both relations between ‘the west and the rest’ and young subjects’ social navigations in the national context. It offers a corrective to mapping a global-local dualism onto classed subjects and totalising analyses of volunteer tourism which assume an archetypal elite white volunteer acting at the whim of ‘neocolonialism’ and ‘neoliberalism’. It contributes to better understanding the relationship between emotion, affect and politics, and using this understanding, offers a more nuanced reading of the transnational encounters of volunteer tourism.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Transformational Journeys: Volunteer Tourism, Non-Elite Youth and the Politics of the Self
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: International Volunteering, Volunteer Tourism, Youth, Social Identity, Class, Development Volunteering, Popular Humanitarianism, Emotion and Affect, Ethnography, Non-elite, Politics of Self-transformation, Youth Geographies, Youth Transitions
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Dept of Geography
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1502450
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