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O'Mahoney, Hannah
Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: H1
Volunteer tourism is a burgeoning industry, and is similarly expanding as a field of academic interest. However, much of the extant literature on this phenomenon is concerned with the motivations of volunteer tourists and their interactions with indigenous and local populations or, in the field of environmental conservationism, impacts upon local environments. There are few thick, qualitative studies of the environments created by the phenomenon within this literature, and even fewer which engage rigorously with sociological theory.\ud Drawing on ethnographic immersion in a small community of volunteer sea-turtle conservationists in Greece, this thesis explores the types of work volunteers perform within these environments, and frames these experiences in relation to broader sociological perspectives on work, employment, and leisure. The concept of flourishing is mobilised to understand the specific types of satisfaction which the participants exhibit and report during their time volunteering. This investigation combines fieldwork and qualitative interviews to develop an empirical understanding of the everyday life of volunteering and how the participants’ experiences and accounts contrast to but are also framed by dominant discourses such as personal growth, employability, and instrumentalism found in advanced neo-liberal capitalism. The ‘thickness’ of the data, providing detailed insights into the lived experiences of volunteers through the immersive ethnographic method, allows for the social complexity of the volunteer experience to be studied. It proposes that whilst volunteer tourists employ discourses of employability and self-improvement when asked why they volunteer, the actual experiences of volunteering provide less tangible rewards, such as sensual interactions with the natural environment and human relationships reinforced by the proximity of the volunteers’ living quarters and values. \ud This research both contributes to a growing literature on the phenomenon of volunteer tourism and adds empirical weight to an established debate concerning the relationship of Marxism to environmentalism. Using the concept of species-being in relation to the teleology of both Marxist and Aristotelian theory, it is argued that conservation work can allow individuals to flourish – in an environment in which work and leisure are more hybridised than oppositional – and for a protected species, the sea turtle, to achieve its telos.
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