Humanitarian Humor, Digilantism, and the Dilemmas of Representing Volunteer Tourism on Social Media

Kaylan C. Schwarz*, Lisa Ann Richey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


How is volunteer tourism practice portrayed and policed in an online setting? First, this article describes three humanitarian-themed campaigns - Radi-Aid on YouTube, Humanitarians of Tinder on Tumblr, and Barbie Savior on Instagram - to consider the ways edgy humor might be employed to rebuke and resolve problematic humanitarian practices as well as representations of the African “other” and the humanitarian self. Second, through an inspection of repeated semi-structured interviews and visual content uploaded to Facebook, this article shows how a group of UK-based international volunteers took measures to avoid “stereotypical” volunteer photography (embracing children, selfies) when communicating their experiences in Kenya to a public audience, determined to avoid the scrutiny of “in the know” audience members. We consider these counter-narratives in light of Jane’s concept of “digilantism,” an emerging style of networked response to injustice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1928-1946
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019

Bibliographical note

Published online: 3. April 2019


  • Digilantism
  • Humanitarianism
  • Humor
  • International volunteering
  • Parody
  • Photography
  • Representation
  • Self-presentation
  • Social media
  • Volunteer tourism

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