Neo-colonial marketization of “ethical tourism”: a critical visual analysis

Veronika Kadomskaia, Jan Brace-Govan, Angela Garcia B. Cruz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


Volunteer tourism is a form of alternative tourism appealing to individuals who want to ‘make a difference’ whilst travelling. Its growing popularity amongst young consumers is reflective of the marketisation of volunteer tourism, which has progressively professionalised. Although the altruistic and exploitative dimensions of volunteer tourism are widely debated, less attention has been paid to the broader cultural discourses which shape volunteer tourism and are represented in, and circulated through, visual narratives. The present research draws on postcolonial theories to trace the sociohistorical pervasiveness of the neo-colonial gaze in market-mediated relations between the Global North and the Global South. Our critical visual analysis demonstrates how provider-generated and consumer- generated visual representations of volunteer tourism are inflected by four neo-colonial discourses; making a difference, helplessness, sentimentality, and power asymmetry. All four are reproduced by providers and consumers in strikingly similar ways, raising considerations around the ethics of visual representation. However, the Othering of this scopic regime is also challenged by the critical, postcolonial spectator through visual subversion and satire.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMarketization
Subtitle of host publicationTheory and Evidence from Emerging Economies
EditorsHimadri Roy Chaudhuri, Russell W. Belk
Place of PublicationSingapore Singapore
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9789811545146
ISBN (Print)9789811545139
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • ethical consumption
  • Postcolonial theory
  • neo-colonialism
  • postcolonial gaze
  • Visual analysis
  • volunteer tourism

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