CfP Special Issue “Ethnographies of Poverty and Marginality in Non-Profit and Charity Associations”

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Deadline: 15th of January 2018


Special Issue “Ethnographies of Poverty and Marginality in Non-Profit and Charity Assocations” – Journal of Organizational Etnnography

Guest Editors:  Hugo Valenzuela García, Miranda Lubbers, James Rice

Poverty and marginality in modern societies is one of the largest social problems on the political agendas of many “developed” countries. The recent economic and financial crisis and the dismantling of the Fordist welfare state, one of the hallmarks of the neoliberal era, intensifies this situation (Dickinson, 2016). High unemployment rates, rising living costs, and increasing economic burdens (mortgages, rents, taxes…), coupled with the deterioration of public aid, have pushed many households to rely more heavily on non-profit and charity organizations to cover basic needs such as food or housing.

Despite the interest for NGOs and humanitarianism in the Third World (see Fischer, 1997; Redfield, 2005; Bornstein, 2009; Minn, 2017), charitable organizations in Western societies have less frequently been the object of anthropological research. Although in the Western tradition charity organizations have been often associated with Christian philanthropy and poverty alleviation (Bonner et al., 2003; Cohen, 2005; Neumann, 2007), today institutional poverty relief transcends its religious meanings and has very different faces: guilds, fraternities, urban NGOs, private initiatives, social enterprises, non-profit organizations, foundations, etc., becoming a central issue in liberal policies (O’Connor, 2001). This Special Issue is specifically devoted to the ethnographies of non-profit and charity associations in Western urban settings that are active in the areas of poverty and marginality in the post-welfare state era.

In order to better understand the institutional dimension of charity and non-profit organizations devoted to assist the poor and marginalised in modern societies, we welcome submissions on the proposed topic, addressing questions such as:

  *   What does charitable and altruistic giving mean for both the disenfranchised and the benefactors (despair, shame, generosity, praise, paternalism, stigma…)? Do they involve class, gender or ethnic disparities?
  *   Are poverty-relief systems inspired by the pious desire to build a compassionate society, or are they primarily reactions to demographic trends, economic pressures or labour market tendencies?
  *   What are the policies, moral drives, hegemonic discourses, and social perceptions underlying charitable and non-profit organizations that attend people in situations of poverty and marginalization?
  *   How are norms created in different non-profit settings?
  *   What type of support do these institutions provide or neglect?
  *   Do these spaces share a particular culture?
  *   What kind of values and relationships are fostered by the institutions: brotherhood, paternalism, empowerment…?
  *   Is there a particular pattern of age/class/gender among donors, volunteers, workers and users?
  *   Do these organizations strengthen or weaken support networks? And how does the creation of these networks influence individuals’ subsistence strategies?
  *   How are non-profit organizations shaping the image and values of the corporate sector?
  *   How do new models of efficiency and auditing influence the daily assistance of the poor and disenfranchised?

Full papers will be due on the 15th of January 2018 and will be sent out for peer review. If you consider submitting a paper, we´ll be grateful to receive a message of intent.

Further information about the contents of the Special Issue and submission guidelines can be found on Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any further questions:

Hugo Valenzuela García:

Miranda Lubbers:

James Rice:

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