Pain, politics and volunteering in tourism studies

Ryan Frazer, Gordon Waitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


This paper is an ethnography of how six Australian volunteers experience a house-build project in the Philippines. Contingencies of empathic pain arising from the living conditions of those they aimed to help were felt through their bodies. Drawing on Sara Ahmed’s ideas on pain enabled us to explore the politics of volunteer tourism. We suggest the intensification of volunteers’ empathic pain constitute ambivalent spaces. In some volunteering contingencies, pain led to a blurring of conventional boundaries of ’them’ and ’us’, giving priority to difference over dominance. In others, volunteers reproduced dominant understandings of volunteering that mobilised neoliberal and colonial discourses. We conclude by encouraging other tourism scholars to think politically about pain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-189
Number of pages14
JournalAnnals of Tourism Research
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • affects
  • emotions
  • sensations
  • qualitative
  • volunteer tourism
  • Philippines


Dive into the research topics of 'Pain, politics and volunteering in tourism studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this