Research Consortium for Belizean Studies


Student Identities and the Tourist Gaze in International Service-Learning: A University Project in Belize


This qualitative study explores how 11 university students in a U.S. service-learning course in Belize understood and represented their identities during the project, particularly their use of "the tourist" as a construct to interpret their experiences. Drawing on literature in international service-learning (ISL) and tourism studies, the article explores how students in this outreach project positioned themselves in relation to tourists and rejected this label for themselves, the ways in which they both exhibited and departed from the "tourist gaze," and the conditions that fostered a more or less tourist-like stance. The article argues that the tourist gaze counteracts core goals of ISL and university engagement; however, such projects can also provide students with opportunities to develop a more conscious perspective of others and themselves. Findings suggest the need to identify and nurture programmatic practices that enable students to move away from a tourist gaze, especially in short-term projects. (Contains 2 endnotes.)


Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement

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