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Navigating with East Asian Volunteer Tourists: Moral Landscape, Community, Transformation

KWONG, YIM,MING (2019) Navigating with East Asian Volunteer Tourists: Moral Landscape, Community, Transformation. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This study aims to re-conceptualise volunteer tourism through wider theoretical questions and analytical approach in order to contribute to developing a more holistic theoretical framework for understanding volunteer tourism. This thesis is premised primarily on the question: ‘why do individuals travel as volunteers?’ Focusing on volunteer tourists from Hong Kong and Taiwan, this thesis seeks to unpack how volunteer tourism becomes a social trend. As a choice of travelling, taking part in volunteer tourism is not just a discrete choice of a single volunteer tourist. It is a prevailing choice from the overarching, complex ethical terrain in which an individual chooses to do things from a particular instilled position. This instilled position emerges from the interplay of neoliberal constructions and responsibilisation through institutionalised service obligation in schools that encourage students to extend care to distant others alongside the culturally rooted ethical dispositions that inform developing oneself by taking up more responsibilities. This social trend also manifests the search for rebuilding social ties that can be actualised through being part of moral communities and new ways of being through distancing from the ‘familiar’ and critical self-reflection in the ‘unfamiliar’. This moves the conceptualisation of volunteer tourism beyond the absolute dichotomy between altruism and self-interest to the broader discussion around ways of being and becoming a moral self. This study also offers a ‘post-normative’ analytical framework to understand how a good self is cultivated, experienced and re-invented through volunteer tourism. On the one hand, it draws together the concepts to examine the active and conscious technologies of the self, unconscious dispositions and the notion of quality which play out for the development of the self towards an ethical subject. On the other hand, it links up the concepts of community, liminality and geographies of care to investigate the meaning and formation of the moral self in a collective setting. This study further contributes to this theoretical framework by widening the discussion to a non-Western context. The finding of this research shows that in Chinese societies in East Asia, developing a good self is the choice as well as the outcome, which is slightly different from the Western responsibilisation. This study contributes to the current responsibilisation as well as alternative tourism or ethical tourism literature by looking at the complex ethical and cultural framework in which individuals choose to do things from particular dispositions rather than positing individuals to make discrete choices. The way that these Asian volunteers conceive volunteer tourism, as informed by their traditional values, helps to re-orientate from sending aid to change poor people’s lives to sharing and exchange which may also help to disorientate volunteers’ subjectivities. This responds to the urge for ‘Asianising the field’ through more research on the emerging phenomenon of Asian tourists/tourism within Asia.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:volunteer tourism; moral self; moral landscape; moral community; transformation; Asia
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Nov 2019 12:23

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