Conferences, 4Rs 2008

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Broadened Horizons? Promoting global citizenship through Gap-Year Youth Travel Experiences
Stephen Wearing, John Neill, Kevin Lyons

Last modified: 2008-08-31


A celebratory discourse of cultural diversity has underpinned Australian governments' multiculturalism policies for several decades. This valorisation of cross-cultural understanding, and the promotion of an ethic of global citizenship is at the forefront of the recent development of international 'Gap-Year' travel and tourism programs and policies for young Australians. Political and community leaders, along with representatives of the tourism industry, position Gap-Year youth travel as a de facto form of civics education that promotes an acceptance and tolerance of cultural diversity and engenders the development of a global citizen.

In this paper we argue that although engagement with other cultures is a central tenet of global citizenship, it is not an inherent outcome of all forms of Gap-Year travel. We consider and critique the development of packaged and commodified Gap-Year travel experiences and suggest that certain forms of this experience actively reinforce a type of engagement centred on the accrual of individual cultural and social capital. We argue that these forms of Gap-Year travel are more consistent with a neo-liberal ethos that promote a process of 'othering' that is inimical to broadening cross-cultural understanding and global citizenry. We then consider the recent development of 'volunteer tourism' as an alternative Gap-Year youth travel experience and the forms of cultural engagement that are promoted and provided and consider how such programs are best managed and developed in a neo-liberal political context. We conclude by suggesting that, despite the rhetorics that associate Gap-Year travel with global citizenship such an association remains empirically unsupported.

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