Summers of war. Affective volunteer tourism to former war sites in Europe

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An important aspect of contemporary volunteer tourism is generated by the possibility of having personal, emotional and affective encounters and experiences. Volunteer summer camps on former war sites, organized by the German Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP), can be regarded as an expression of a contemporary form of tourism, which consists of the development of a personal, affective, and immersive approach to learning and volunteering on former war sites. A performative approach to studying emotion is applied, and helps to locate and understand the social, cultural, and political components that instigate the desire for affective volunteer tourism. For this study, 26 semi-structured in-depth interviews have been conducted with participants of ARSP volunteer summer camps that focused on conserving and maintaining former war sites in Italy, Lithuania, and France. The results indicate that volunteers expect war themed summer camps to be impactful (in terms of work) and emotional (in terms of personal experiences). Yet, the sought-after impact and emotion are not always found, which gives rise to contradictory feelings and tensions. Feelings of guilt about unmet expectations have caused volunteers to re-evaluate their motives and look for different ways to make the summer camps meaningful to them. Participants were encouraged to critically reflect, on this form of volunteer tourism in particular, and on societal debates about war and volunteer tourism in general
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)326-345
Number of pages20
JournalTourism Geographies
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Volunteer tourism
  • Affect
  • Dark tourism
  • Emotion
  • Place experience
  • Voluntourism
  • War sites
  • War tourism

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