Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (Honours)


School of Earth & Environmental Science


Gordon Waitt


This thesis explores voluntourism by following a group of older (aged 60 years and over) Illawarra Rotarians who travel to the socio--‐economically disadvantaged village of Nayonbago, Philippines, to build a house. Drawing on post--‐structuralist feminist epistemology—which emphasises the sensuous and performative aspects of the voluntourist encounter—the thesis aims to better understand older people’s participation in voluntourism. Guiding questions are: How do older voluntourists navigate the ethical dilemmas of voluntourism? And what are the implications of their spontaneous encounters with socio--‐economic disadvantage? Employing a non--‐prescriptive methodology, the thesis draws on the analytic tools of narrative ethnography. The results presented across three chapters offer new insights into the embodied geographical knowledges of older voluntourists’ experiences. The results chapters chart how participants both reproduce and rupture normative sets of voluntourism ideas and identities. The materialities of aged bodies became an interesting entry point into the lived, sensuous experiences of older volunteers – an avenue not previously explored in voluntourism literature. The aged bodies of participants encouraged reflexivity of their ambiguous positioning between being both ‘helpers’ and ‘needy’ in Nayonbago. Similarly, participants’ sensuous encounters with the affective qualities of water through ‘play’ fostered mutual feelings of joy between bodies, creating affective bridges across social difference. The aged bodies of participants also helped reconcile the felt differences between outside and inside of their hotel as ‘Western’ and comfortable. Through encounters with hotel air, water, food, and upholstery, participants were not only able to feel the material threshold of the hotel but also resolve the ethical dilemma of the monetary cost of staying there through understanding it as constituting a ‘restorative’ space. The thesis closes by emphasising the importance of future research on older voluntourists in the context of an ageing Australia.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.