I have studied a phenomenon referred to as volunteer tourism through an organisation s practice in a rural town on the east coast of South Africa. My main quest has been to look upon the meetings between the tourists working as development agents and the local people, as this enabled me to recognise how the intended interaction was interpreted differently by the various people involved.
I have further attempted to reach understanding towards why and how different interpretations occurred, and how these differences in perceptions created a basis for unintended consequences.
In approaching these problematic fields, I became an active member of the volunteer organisation, and could as such follow interaction within the organisation, and between the organisation and the local community, closely. Through this central position I observed and discovered how unintended consequences also occurred within the volunteer organisation due to various circumstances. Internal and external dynamics made it vulnerable in its process towards becoming a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO). The structure of the organisation was loose and coincidental, partly due to a lack of resources, and partly due to it being based upon passing-through travellers embarking on the project.
Through my approach I have observed how an asymmetry in departure points concerning the freedom - or the lack of - individual mobility, entailed important elements through demonstrations of power.
To create a framework for my analysis I have in particular utilised theories on critiques of development, and theories on processes of globalisation.