Voluntourism in Malaysia: a study of intimacy in the 'do-good' industry
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 03:10 by Siti Munawirah Ahmad Mustaffa
This thesis is about the experiences and impacts of volunteer tourists' activities in Malaysia. Focusing on the interpersonal relations between travellers and members of local host communities, this research aims to explore the effects of intimate connections on groups of people from diverse backgrounds. The intention is to understand how affective interactions among individuals have contributed to the emergence and proliferation of volunteer tourism, or 'voluntourism' - a form of alternative tourism and a by-product of the enmeshing between development and tourism. The thesis examines voluntourism within global frameworks of power that influence practices and approaches that are neoliberal, paternal, and to some degree neo-colonial in nature. Drawing on ethnographic interviews and participant observation from three months of fieldwork, it is found that altruistic motives of volunteer tourists (or 'voluntourists') are shrouded by desires to build interpersonal relations with others. Intimacy happens predominantly among voluntourists and staff members of hosting organisations, thus suggesting that the focus on formation of intimate relations (especially) with individuals of similar social standing may overshadow, and to a certain extent even contribute to, the unequal power structures existing in volunteer tourism.