Embodied experiences in international volunteering: power-body relations and performative ontologies

Mark Griffiths, Eleanor Joanne Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper we debate the interpretation of embodied experience on international volunteering placements. Drawing on six in-depth interviews with volunteers recently returned from Northern Thailand, we document the affects and emotions that play a key role in the formation of volunteer–host relations. We then present two interpretations of the data, conceptualising power-body relations in two different ways: from power’s affective and emotional literacy, to the body’s autonomous capacities. With these two interpretations at hand we then consider the performative nature of academic labour and make the case, following the work of feminist geographers J.K. Gibson-Graham, for a research praxis that does not set limits on subjectivity but rather excavates – and writes into being – the possible. We therefore argue for a conceptualisation and interpretation of embodied experience in volunteering as a site of potential transformation and transcendence of the inequalities that otherwise set the conditions of the volunteer–host encounter.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)665-682
Number of pages18
JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
Issue number5
Early online date18 Jul 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jul 2016

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© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • Volunteer–host encounters, interpretative practices, development, power relations,

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