New Colonialists of Africa? - Tackling the White Saviour Complex in Contemporary Voluntourism

  • Jude Cowden


This critical reflection aims to explore the increasing phenomenon of voluntourism in the tourist industry, with western tourists spending months or even years volunteering in African or other third world countries. It also attempts to examine how these attitudes tie into people’s understandings of the differences between how both “First” and “Third” world countries work and explores the unconscious privilege and unequal race relations bundled up in these “selfless” acts. The contribution draws on colonialist theories alongside theories on the sociology of tourism in order to examine how a distorted postmodern form of the tourist gaze has led to the growth of this sector. Doing so a discourse analysis will be employed to study the marketing of voluntourism on the most popular websites and unpacking the language and assumptions implicit in how it is sold to the public.