Michael Matthews November 8, 2011
The Politics of Going Aboard to do Good
Does going abroad do any good?
Good intentions- good ideas thoughts and actions could lead to negative, unintended consequences. E.g. the
Congo (Lord Stanley) and residential school in Canada (native kids who were taken away from their
parents and families and brought to residential school were kids were forbidden to speak their language, cut
their hair, change their name etc.) Last residential schools didn’t shut down until 1980’s. Goal of the
residential schools was to make them like us (Christian etc.). This happened as a result of fear. Some
consider this as genocide, because the churches and the government knew what was going on (small pox).
Some say the spread of civilization is another word for assimilation.
Congo was known for its rubber plantations, lots of exploitation (King Leopold).
European thinkers thought that this was good development and in the 18 century some believed that
history was linear, unending, and a road that is inevitable (and the Europeans are always ahead).
Development is seen as a continuation of the something colonialism development.
There is an unprecedented interest in international experiential education.
This interest may be derived from the desire of people to do good things and give back to those who are in
need, People are compelled to be good “global citizens”. Are they going to help other?
Some have argued that the interest in going abroad is derived from the need to become more marketable,
when it comes time to seek employment. Are they going to help themselves?
Pros: humanitarian motivations, good intentions/ idealism, seeking “authentic” encounters, altruism, can be
transformational for those who go, serves as a spiritual need to do good for others.
Cons: embodies the consumerist approach, more about the self and less about a deeper experience, may not
really help those in need (for may even harm), makes us feel virtuous/ superior (doing it just to alleviate
guilt), has the potential to replicate ethnocentric attitudes that the West has the answers to problems others
in the world are incapable of solving (form of neocolonialism?) –implies that the black people do not know
how to solve their problems theirs self, but need white people to do it.
Doing good in the world- There are many meaningful and thoughtful ways for people to “make a
difference” globally. Give donations/charity (critique: paternalistic? Governments off the hook?). Lobby
government for increased ODA (official development assistance) - 0.7% target. (critique: much official aid
is tied to national self-interest) – we never give the money we say.
Examine how your personal consumption, impacts people in other places (critique: globalization is such a
strong force- could you really change the structure that contribute to inequality simply by changing
Consider how notions of development shape perceptions of those who live in the global south (critique:
development is a form of neo-colonialism)
Barbara heron- Desire for Development- Voluntourism- helping or hurting? Impact of the footprint that we