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“Highly skilled mobility and tourism as intertwined practices – the case of Swedish doctors working for international help organisations”.
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
2016 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

My paper concerns the intertwined practices of highly skilled mobility and tourism by focusing on Swedish physicians working abroad for international help organizations like MSF/Doctors without Borders, the Red Cross, Operation Smile or the United Nations. The study is based on 16 extensive narrative interviews with doctors who have returned to Sweden, after working outside the Western context, encountering diverse medical, organisational, local and national (sub)cultures.

When the physicians tell about their motivations to work abroad, they talk not only about the wish “to do some good” and “to make a difference” where the medical resources are insufficient, but also a strong wish “to see the world”, “to really get to know other cultures” and even to experience an “adventure”. The doctors try to combine their work in Kenya, India, Lebanon, Colombia or Afghanistan with getting to know the local environments, the region and the country, e.g. by shorter round-trips on their free-time or making a longer trip after the assignment has been completed. As the mobile doctors picture their assignments, there seems to be no clear-cut boundaries between their work and every-day life in the local setting and tourism; all those practices may be a source of exotic bewilderment and carry educational and enlightening aspects. Work mobility and tourism thus supplement each other and put some of the well-known social and cultural practices into perspective.

The doctors are, however, concerned about the post-colonial implications of working and sightseeing in the global south. They fret about the implications of being white, privileged subjects who are more protected and cherished than the local population and free to leave the deprived or problematic region. The work assignment may, however, be a kind of alibi for tourism, the only “proper” and “decent” way to visit a Third World country – offering their medical competence and effort, co-operating with local colleagues, is regarded as a way to reduce the unfair power relations and the exploiting tourist gaze.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016.
Keyword [en]
tourism, work mobility, doctors, Sweden, postcolonialism, help organisations
National Category
Humanities
Research subject
Ethnology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-119804OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-119804DiVA: diva2:924065
Conference
International Conference “Intersections of tourism and migration”, Gdańsk, Poland, 22-23 April 2016
Projects
What is the use of internationalization in the medical field?
Available from: 2016-04-27 Created: 2016-04-27 Last updated: 2016-04-27

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Wolanik Boström, Katarzyna
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ReferencesLink to record
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