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It Looks Good on Paper: An Anthropological Exploration of Volunteer Tourism and English Teaching in Northeastern Thailand
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Cultural Anthropology.
2012 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 30 credits / 45 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This thesis explores volunteer tourism in the context of English teachingin Northeastern Thailand, with the specific purpose of exploring whethervolunteer tourism can lead to positive structural positive changes withinthe Thai education system, particularly with regard to improving thequality of education, and reducing inequalities in access to education. Thestudy is based on two months of fieldwork in Nong Khai and Udon Thaniprovinces in Northeastern Thailand, during which interviews andobservations were conducted in two volunteer organizations workingactively with English teaching in the area. One organization was acommercial company while the other was a charity organization, formingthe basis for comparisons between different types of volunteer tourism.The study shows that volunteers working within the charity sector weremore dedicated to their work than vounteers working within thecommercial sector. Furthermore, they were more confident that they weremaking an actual contribution. The motivations of volunteers to partake inthe volunteer programs are explored and discussed in relation to the Thaieducation system and the growing desire for native-speaking and foreignteachers. Locating the stories and experiences of different actors in thelocal volunteer tourism industry within the larger context of the Thaieducation system, the study shows that significant inequalities within theeducation sector, coupled with increasing neoliberal processes ofmarketization and privatization, interact with volunteer organizations tocreate a situation in which young, unskilled volunteers are replacing Thaiteachers in the classrooms. This perpetuates a system in which the rightsof underprivileged school children are significantly downplayed. Thenotion that volunteer tourism leads to a greater cross-cultural understanding and a breakdown of cultural stereotypes is questioned;rather, negative stereotypes can be reinforced if programs are not carefullymanaged by the organizations. The study further argues that the focus onpersonal development and intimacy in volunteer tourism, as well as thelack of professionalization in commercial volunteer programs, can lead toa situation in which the structural inequalities which volunteer tourismshould supposedly address are effectively overshadowed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. , 168 p.
Masteruppsatser i kulturantropologi, ISSN 1653-2244 ; 36
Keyword [en]
volunteer tourism, English as a foreign language, development, whiteness, intimacy, modernity, semi-colonialism, neoliberalism.
National Category
Social Anthropology
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-210008OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-210008DiVA: diva2:660396
Available from: 2013-11-29 Created: 2013-10-29 Last updated: 2013-11-29Bibliographically approved

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