In this paper we debate the interpretation of embodied experience on international volunteering placements. Drawing on six in-depth interviews with volunteers recently returned from Northern Thailand, we document the affects and emotions that play a key role in the formation of volunteer–host relations. We then present two interpretations of the data, conceptualising power-body relations in two different ways: from power’s affective and emotional literacy, to the body’s autonomous capacities. With these two interpretations at hand we then consider the performative nature of academic labour and make the case, following the work of feminist geographers J.K. Gibson-Graham, for a research praxis that does not set limits on subjectivity but rather excavates – and writes into being – the possible. We therefore argue for a conceptualisation and interpretation of embodied experience in volunteering as a site of potential transformation and transcendence of the inequalities that otherwise set the conditions of the volunteer–host encounter.