Promoting Cultural Humility in International Volunteer Tourism Discourse

Clark, Jessica
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The international volunteer tourism sector has grown rapidly in the past four decades. Some researchers argue that colonial ideas of Western superiority have flowed into volunteer tourism discourse. The language communicated by some of the organizations not only reveals their attitudes but has the potential to shape and reinforce volunteer perceptions. These communicated perceptions may be harmful when translated to host communities. This thesis examines the language these organizations communicate in their promotional materials. Seven characteristics were identified from the literature as most important for demonstrating an attitude of cultural humility and reducing neocolonial stereotypes in the discourse. These criteria are evidence of self-reflection, recognition of historical relationships, appreciation for mutual learning, building of partnerships, exhibiting respect for others, rejecting stereotypes of the “other,” and reducing praise of the volunteer. Six organizations were rated on these seven criteria on a scale of 1-5. Several organizations were concluded to communicate a value for partnership building but appeared to demonstrate a lack of respect for the host community. Goals for necessary improvement are to highlight the mutual benefit of the host-volunteer relationship and to challenge volunteers to reflect on their own expectations.

Volunteer tourism., Cultural humility.