Global encounters: Voluntourism, development and global citizenship in Fiji

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This paper explores the rise of voluntourism in Fiji, a country reliant on tourism but which is a relatively new market for voluntourism. It draws from research examining the role of voluntourism in development through a case study of the experiences and discourse of voluntourists, a host community, and the staff of a commercial voluntourism organisation in Fiji. While voluntourism is the focus of significant and necessary critique, this research showed that narrow conceptions of what the outcomes of voluntourism should be – usually articulated as development or global citizenship – do not adequately account for the complex web of relationships and impacts that result from the voluntourism encounter. Instead, in this research a more complex picture emerged of the encounters facilitated by the voluntourism experience; the multiple relationships formed between volunteers and hosts; and the learning that took place, particularly within home stays. In this paper these encounters are explored using a wide-angled view of development, drawing on Hart's (2001; Progress in Human Geography, 25, 649–658) conception of d/Development, to explore the relationship between development and global citizenship and how these are shaped by, and interact with, historical and contemporary global processes; from colonialism to commercialised volunteering. As such, this paper argues for a more nuanced and reflective approach to voluntourism and voluntourists, one which does not overlook the critiques, but which acknowledges the ways in which voluntourism encounters are shaping broader development trajectories within the contexts in which they occur; and for more attention to be paid to the way in which the discourses of global citizenship and development are co-articulated and expressed in voluntourism practices.




McLennan, S. J. (2019). Global encounters: Voluntourism, development and global citizenship in Fiji. Geographical Journal, 185(3), 338–351.

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