In recent years, ‘Volunteer Tourism’ and experiential education have become popular ways to experience international development. Over 65,000 Canadians have volunteered on development projects that espouse a shared commitment to global poverty reduction and personal adventure. Hence, volunteer tourism has become a topic of extensive scholarly buzz. However, contrary to the literature’s static depiction of the volunteer tourist as apolitical, unknowing, and defined only by self-less or self-centered motivations, I found volunteer selves to be fluid, fractured, and fragile with their acts of care bordered by uncertainty. Centrally, this research considers the indeterminate and uncertain space where students and volunteers make and unmake their selves in order to find a sense of worth and belonging. By illuminating the socio-economic and discursive matrices that shape volunteer selves, this thesis suggests that volunteer lives, beyond their intentions, remain hidden and unnoticed—their unpaid labour exists on the cusp of visibility.
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Thesis advisor: Millar, Kathleen
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