Medical Voluntourism in Shangri-La
Located at the intersection of global humanitarian discourses of sickness and a Western sentimentality of “doing good,” short-term medical volunteer trips are an emergent form of global interaction where students, tourists and medical practitioners participate in training and educational opportunities or direct service delivery in less developed countries. In particular, this burgeoning form of travel is increasingly popular in Nepal’s remote Himalayan settings, where descriptions of Shangri-La are juxtaposed with statistics of suffering to attract volunteers. While there are compelling reasons to consider the benefits of voluntourism, Dave will share why the potential long-term impacts of short-term medical care requires further consideration in an era of renewed global health efforts.
David has been conducting research in Nepal since 2001. His personal experiences as a medical voluntourist working with NGOs to coordinate “health camps” led him to critically examine the possibilities and limits for our desires to ‘do good’ abroad. David received his Bachelor of Arts at Cornell University, a Masters in Public Health from the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington in 2011, and is currently writing up his Anthropology PhD dissertation on the impacts of fleeting forms of humanitarian intervention in Nepal’s far northwest Karnali Zone. He currently resides in Seattle.