2021 journal article
Leisure and the “White-Savior Industrial Complex”
Leisure and the “White-Savior Industrial Complex.” Journal of Leisure Research, 52(5), 531–550.
Representation of, and service to, “underrepresented” and “disadvantaged” groups often denote goals sought by leisure researchers and practitioners. The motivations behind these goals are varied, often harkening themes of social justice and equity. As a potential counternarrative to these motivations, the writer Teju Cole, posited the “White-Savior Industrial Complex.” While originally positioned in the context of Western humanitarian aid, Cole’s thesis that White, hegemonic groups seek to do good while also satisfying their own emotional needs can also apply to leisure research and practice. Through parallel analyses employing Cole’s framework, we identify the enactment of White Saviorism in three exemplative leisure practices: (1) international volunteer tourism, (2) diversification efforts in outdoor recreation, and (3) youth development programming in urban communities. Ultimately, our aim is to encourage leisure researchers and practitioners to engage in a critical reflection in how the field pursues equity and social justice work, and to assess conscious and unconscious biases that influence questions asked and services provided.