Lice work: Non-human trajectories in volunteer tourism

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14 Citations (Scopus)


This article studies volunteer tourism by following the trajectories of a non-human actor. Based on fieldwork at a Nepalese orphanage and drawing on insights from the material semiotics of Actor–Network Theory, we describe how the louse interferes as an unexpected actor with volunteer tourism at the orphanage. This post-human approach decentres the volunteer and destabilises the host–guest binary while adding to our understanding of tourism practices as complex and materially distributed endeavours. We analyse two configurations of head lice enacted through a modern morality of hygiene and Nepalese everyday life and show how they are deployed, contested and reconfigured onsite by volunteer tourism actors. By exploring patterns of absence and presence and using the concept of ontological choreography as an analytical resource, we show how the situated lice work of human and non-human actors at the orphanage offers new ways to grasp the forging of volunteer experiences and subjectivities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTourist Studies
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)238-257
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • volunteer tourism
  • Actor-Network Theory
  • Non-human agency
  • Nepal
  • Guest/host relations
  • ontological choreography


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