Graduation Term


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Sociology and Anthropology: Sociology

Committee Chair

Marion Willetts


It is estimated that as many as 10 million individuals participate in international volunteering projects annually (McGehee, 2014). Since its rise in the late nineties and early aughts, voluntourism has drawn the attention of academic and non-academic audiences alike, who have warned of the perils of exploitation, commodification, and white saviorism. This study conducts an issue-focused analysis to examine the extent to which the voluntourism experience has evolved into one of mutuality rather than cultural hegemony. Sixteen semi-structured interviews and participant observation were conducted at a longstanding Guatemalan voluntourism site. Wearing & Wearing’s (2006) Third Space interactive cultural tourism framework was applied to assist in the analysis of the experiences of both the foreign volunteers and the local host community. Through the application of the key concepts of power, culture, values, place/space, people, and selves, this research examines the co-production of experience within the destination site. Results suggest that while participants, including the outwardly politically conscious volunteers, aspire to create a voluntourism environment that fosters positive social change, the presence of foreign volunteers perpetuates an underlying cultural hierarchy of giver/receiver that is reflected most plainly through the accounts of host community members.


Page Count


Included in

Sociology Commons