Voluntourism and Multispecies Collaboration
Life, Death, and Conservation in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
Winner of the 2022 Edward M. Bruner Book Award
Voluntourism and Multispecies Collaboration is a lively ethnographic exploration of the world of conservation voluntourism and its engagement with marine and terrestrial biodiversity on the Honduran Bay Island of Utila, located in the ecologically critical Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.
In this highly readable text, anthropologist Keri Vacanti Brondo provides a pioneering theoretical framework that conceptualizes conservation voluntourism as a green industry. Brondo argues that the volunteer tourism industry is the product of coloniality and capitalism that works to produce and sustain an economy of affect while generating inequalities and dispossession. Employing a decolonizing methodology based on landscape assemblage theory, Brondo offers “thinking-like-a-mangrove” to attend to alternative worldings in Utila beyond the hegemonic tourist spectacle–dominated world attached to the volunteer tourism industry. Readers journey through the mangroves and waters alongside voluntourists, iguanas, whale sharks, turtles, lionfish, and islanders to build valuable research experience in environmental management while engaging in affective labor and multispecies relations of care.
Conservation organizations benefit from the financial capital and labor associated with conservation tourism, an industry boosted by social media. This critical work asks us to consider the impacts of this new alternative tourism market, one that relies on the exchange of “affect” with other species. How are human socialities made through interactions with other species? What lives and dies in Utila’s affect economy? Why are some species killable? Who gets to decide?
“Keri Brondo’s lively book offers an illuminating assessment of voluntourism at the nexus of conservation, capitalism, coloniality, and affect. Brondo strips away the boosterism that surrounds the care work of tourists to expose the dispossession that shapes human–nonhuman interactions within the marine and terrestrial environments of the Bay Islands of Honduras. Ethnographically and theoretically rich, Voluntourism and Multispecies Collaboration will be of great interest to students and scholars alike within political ecology, anthropology, geography, tourism studies, and Caribbean studies.”—Marcos Mendoza, author of The Patagonian Sublime: The Green Economy and Post-Neoliberal Politics