Volunteer Tourism - Popular Humanitarianism in Neoliberal Times

Author: Mary Mostafaneszhad
Ashgate, ISBN 978-1-4094-6953-7, August 2014

There are still a few academic books, about a dozen, on Volunteer Tourism (VT), despite its rapid growth, so this monograph is a welcome as well as useful, if over-critical, addition. Right from the start, the reader may get the impression that the authors' disposition is rather polemic with VT being portrayed as a form of “neoliberal activism”, an aspirin / weak substitute offered by “Neoliberal Capitalism” and the global north to a global south debilitated by “structural adjustment programs, state pullbacks and privatization schemes” (p.3). Other controversial introductory statements include that “Tourism is first and foremost a commodity, albeit an intangible one” (p.25) and may reinforce an impression of hostility towards tourism as a whole. However, readers, especially those who do not share the implied political views of the author, should not be discouraged by sweeping pronouncements and read the book in its entirety as it is well-written and a product of extensive field-research containing enough information and references to support pro-VT (and pro-tourism) points of view. If the author aimed to prove the case that VT is inextricably linked to the growth of “Neoliberalism” rather than, say, the growth of Environmentalism, Alter-globalization and of the Climate Justice movement she has not convinced us. Even more crucially, the book does not prove the case that, whatever the motives or grand designs, the overall impact of VT on participants and recipients is negative or neutral, considering the evidence presented or missing in this book.