‘My dark heaven’: Hidden voices in orphanage tourism

Esther Bott - Annals of Tourism Research


Literature on orphanage tourism considers the motives of Western volunteers and the problematic nature of their compulsion to ‘help’ vulnerable children in the Global South. Orphanage tourism is also increasingly adopted into ‘rescue ideologies’ (Howard, 2016) and anti-trafficking/‘modern slavery’ campaigns. The perspectives of children involved, however, are missing from these discourses. This article draws on original empirical data to explore the narratives of young Nepali adults who lived in Kathmandu orphanages as children. Through these narratives, the article explores the diverse complexities of the residents' experiences of volunteer tourism and NGO ‘rescue’, and the shortcomings of recent ‘neoabolitionist’ frameworks. The article argues that such framings are routinely oversimplified and that a more nuanced and contextualised empirical exploration is urgently needed.