The Colonial Discourse in Volunteer Tourism and the Exoticization of People and Landscapes of Guatemala, Malawi and Zambia
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Volunteer tourism is a relatively new trend in development aid. However, it is historically rooted in the colonial discourse and shaped by the postcolonial discourse of development. This research is therefore guided theoretically by the fields of postcolonial studies and critical development studies. By means of a critical discourse analysis, the Cycle for Plan initiative of Plan International Nederland has been analyzed. This has been done to answer the following research question: In what ways are the people and landscapes of Guatemala, Malawi and Zambia exoticized in the Cycle for Plan initiative of Plan International Nederland? The analysis shows that the videos display the cyclists as White saviors, which renders the native people to the exotic ‘Other’, incapable of helping themselves. Further, it is shown that the landscapes are displayed as naturally rural, as if they are in an earlier time period or an ‘underdeveloped’ stage. Because of these findings it is argued that this leads to the suggestion that these countries are places where the cyclists are able to have a unique experience and that this exoticization contributes to an imagination in which poverty is seen as inspirational instead of unjust. Moreover, these types of representation increase the gap between the Global North and the Global South, which increases inequality. For follow-up research it is suggested to strive for a more in-depth understanding of these representations and to ask questions such as: Are the development organizations and the participants aware of the problematic nature of volunteer tourism and exoticization?