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A Localised Perspective on International Volunteer Tourism:A case study of a Chinese organisation’s practice in Mathare, Kenya

WANG, YI (2020) A Localised Perspective on International Volunteer Tourism:A case study of a Chinese organisation’s practice in Mathare, Kenya. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Volunteer tourism is becoming increasingly popular around the world in recent decades. The current picture of international volunteer tourism remains incomplete due to a research focus which privileges the group of volunteer tourists and the lack of a holistic framework for analysis. Given that volunteer tourism is deeply embedded in a broader context of international and community development, this thesis analyses volunteer tourism by employing theories and frameworks in the field. As power is identified as a significant concept and an important cause of inequality in volunteer tourism, a structural and systematic analysis of power dynamics is critically investigated. By doing empirical research on a Chinese volunteer tourism organisation’s work in an informal settlement in Kenya, this thesis tries to fill in the research gaps by recovering perspectives from the receiving community and analysing interplays between the organisation, volunteer tourists and local people. Qualitative research was undertaken during two periods comprising interviews with key stakeholders, participant observation, a small participatory research project with local residents and an action component implementing organisational changes. The research findings highlight the complexity of volunteer tourism practice in a community development context. It reveals a different understanding of ‘empowerment’ between the Chinese group and the local group. Power of decision making was largely hidden in closed spaces not only by the Chinese organisation but also by certain groups in the community that developed privileged relationships with the organisation. To reform the community balance, organisational changes were addressed in the action research including the development of more formal processes and a more transparent communication system. The thesis concludes it is essential that volunteer tourism organisations understand the national and local contexts within which they are working, pay attention to the structural causes of local problems and work with local people as far as possible.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:volunteer tourism, international development, community development, power, China, Africa
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Sociology, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 Dec 2020 12:40

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