Charity vs Activism

Lana and I have been thinking about the distinction between charity and activism (a very similar project to Neta’s on “civic engagement”).  Here’s a preliminary list of texts we’re thinking of drawing on:

  • Eliasoph, Nina.  (1998)  Avoiding Politics:  How Americans Produce Apathy in Everyday Life.
  • Blackstone, Amy.  (2004)  “It’s Just about Being Fair:  Activism and the Politics of Volunteering in the Breast Cancer Movement.  Gender and Society 18(3) pp. 350-368
  • Burgess, J. Harrison, C. M. Filius, P. (1998) Environmental communication and the cultural politics of environmental citizenship.
  • Burgess, Jean and Foth, Marcus and Klaebe, Helen (2006) Everyday Creativity as Civic Engagement: A Cultural Citizenship View of New Media. In Proceedings Communications Policy & Research Forum, Sydney
  • Kennelly, Jacqueline Joan. Citizen youth : culture, activism, and agency in an era of globalization. Dissertation –
  • Jeff Goodwin, James M. Jasper, Francesca Polletta.  Passionate politics: emotions and social movements. Chapter:  “The Felt Politics of Charity:  Serving the Ambassadors of God and saving the sinking Classes”
  • Norris, Pippa.  (2002)  Democratic Phoenix: Reinventing Political Activism
  • Isin, Engin Fahri.  Being Political: Genealogies of Citizenship
  • Charity, Philanthropy, and Civility in American History edited by Lawrence Freedman, Mark McGarvie Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003
  • Bremmer, Robert.  Giving: Charity and Philanthropy in History. By Robert H. Bremner.
  • McCarthy, Kathleen D.  (1990)  Lady Bountiful Revisited:  Women, Philanthropy, and Power.
  • Bickford and Reynolds (2002) “Activism and Service-Learning: Reframing Volunteerism as Acts of Dissent” Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture  2(2)

It’s a difficult set of terms to parse, given that new terms keep popping up (“being political,” volunteerism, advocacy, etc.) but we’re hoping to start pinning down some key concepts that will be useful as we continue our work.  We’ll keep you up to date.


  1. I’ve also been looking at Nina Eliasoph’s work, these books also sound relevant and interesting, though it seems her stand on it is quite different than ours. Perhaps we can meet with her?

    Eliasoph, N. Grassroots Politics and Volunteers in Global Perspective. Cambridge: Polity Press.

    Eliasoph, N. (2009). The Empowerment Project: how good ideas can turn inside out in American youth volunteer programs. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Eliasoph, N. S. Ethnographies of Civil Society Around the World

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