Between catcalls and sharing space: Intimacy in volunteer abroad

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3 Citations (Scopus)


This article draws on qualitative research with participants of volunteer abroad to conceptualize intimacy. I suggest intimacies are idealized as loving, familial relationships as outcomes of homestay programs. But, intimacy is fraught with complex meanings because being with others is unpredictable, gendered and racialized. I examine two modes of intimacy: with host families in the home space, and through catcalling. These encounters involved the promise of close familial intimacy, and the discomfort of sexualized intimacy. The former was associated with the love of the host mother, and the latter with machismo of Nicaraguan men. These two modes of intimacy mark two profoundly different affective moments: when volunteers primarily belonging and when they felt most at odds with being there. This article looks at participants' stories of intimacy and what these stories reveal about the ways power relations surface, even as they are denied.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-49
Number of pages8
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar. 2019


  • Host families
  • Intimacy
  • Pedagogy
  • Relationality
  • Volunteer abroad


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