Social constructions of children and childhood(s) on a voluntourism website
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This thesis explored constructions of children and childhood(s) on the American voluntourist website www.unitedplanet.com. Using discourse analysis, I identified an overarching discourse of global community as a common thread on United Planet’s website. Within this discourse, I identified three nodal points using Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory: relationships, the dichotomy of global and local, and development. The three nodal points were discussed in the context of their articulations with discourses of children and childhood(s). The nodal point of relationships was discussed with regards to the discourse of the Romantic child, the global and local to the discourse of universal childhood, and development with regards to the future-oriented or beings vs. becomings discourse. Throughout United Planet’s website, it refers to the contribution that its volunteers make towards building a community beyond borders. Yet within this discourse that proposes values of equality and sharing are tensions that betray this discourse. The construction of the voluntourist was contrasted with the construction of children on the website through images and words, bringing into question whether or not United Planet’s website is a place of equality or disjuncture. The research illuminates how United Planet perpetuates dominant discourses of children and childhood(s), and suggests that the organization understand the representations on their website in the context of the Social studies of children and childhood(s) to further their aim of establishing a unified global community.