RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016

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357 Geographies of faith and volunteering (2): social action and ‘moral economies’
Affiliation Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Tim Fewtrell (Loughborough University, UK)
Sarah Mills (Loughborough University, UK)
Chair(s) Tim Fewtrell (Loughborough University, UK)
Timetable Friday 02 September 2016, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Session abstract Over the last decade, there has been a growing interest in the relationship between faith and voluntary action across the social sciences (e.g. Lukka and Locke 2000; NCVO 2007; Smith and Denton 2005). Indeed, diverse faith-based motivations have shaped both small scale, highly localised provision and contributed to major international relief and development work (Montagne-Villette 2011; Milligan, 2007). As these debates on the relationship between religious identities, volunteering and faith-based organisations expand, there remains a need to be attentive to the dynamics of age and the lifecourse. Indeed, this has been demonstrated in recent studies on the experiences of young religious volunteers (Baillie Smith et al., 2013; Hopkins et al., 2015) and more broadly in work on older volunteers, for example within deprived communities (Hardill and Baines, 2009).
This session seeks to further explore the diverse relationships and interactions between religion, spirituality and volunteering, with a particular emphasis on age and the lifecourse. Furthermore, the session seeks to ask critical questions surrounding other ‘moral economies’ of volunteering (Wolch 2006: xiv) in order to consider the diverse motivations and practices of volunteering projects and individual volunteers. Consequently, papers may focus on a variety of different contexts, scales and religious affiliations, or themes surrounding the ‘post-secular’ landscape of voluntarism (Cloke and Beaumont, 2013).
Linked Sessions Geographies of faith and volunteering (1): youth and the lifecourse
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
Affective effort and enthusiasm, action and in-action in faith-based social action
Stephanie Denning (University of Bristol, UK)
In this paper I explore volunteering as an initial effort and enthusiasm which translates to both faith-based social action and in-action. I do this through the concept of affect. Affect is a central concept to non-representational theories that often pivots on Spinoza's understanding of the capacity of a (human) body to affect – or act – and to be affected. Analysing volunteering through affect in this way allows fleeting moments and the unrepresented to be made manifest as key components of the volunteering. This is particularly important in addressing faith which by its very nature is often about those indiscernible moments. In this way I want to show how affect highlights the reciprocal impact of volunteering upon volunteers; negating the binary of a giver and receiver. The context for this is the running of a Lunch Kitchen through the social franchise 'MakeLunch' (makelunch.org.uk) for the last twelve months as a form of participatory action research. The Lunch Kitchen is run in a church and many volunteers at different stages in their life course are Christian: the question here is how many of the volunteers are motivated by their faith to volunteer, and the impact of this upon their experiences. Through its Christian ethos the project endeavours to value volunteers in their individual affective capacities. In conclusion I will discuss how this initial affective motivation must be continually re-enacted to maintain the will and avoid in-action: faith does not make volunteers immune to challenge by the action it motivates.
A city of hope? The potential of religious belief and liberation theologies as drivers of alternative urban futures
Peter North (University of Liverpool, UK)
This paper, or more accurately think piece, reflects on the potential (or otherwise) of religious belief as a motivating force towards the generation of alternative economic futures in postindustrial cities in the global north. It is well known that what Peck calls the 'dull compulsion' of the 'entrepreneurial thesis' of urban governance has skewed urban strategies into the ubiquitous post- industrial recipe of rebranding, urban spectaculars, tourism and promoting the visitor economy. While in the 1970s and 1980s local socialisms represented an alternative paradigm to entrepreneurialism, studies of responses to contemporary austerity in the UK have pointed to the growth in individualistic 'get by' strategies by residents suffering from austerity who have internalized their predicament as being in some way 'their fault'. Yet in some places church-based networks continue to thrive, and provide welcome ways of supporting their members through hard times. Might these networks provide a mechanism for conceptualizing and enacting alternative urban futures? Might concepts from Latin America such as liberation theology or organising base communities enable faith based communities to work in new progressive ways? What could a progressive contribution of Pentecostalism or 'prosperity theology' be in terms of empowering its advocates to take charge of their lives in ways that go beyond neoliberal individualism? This paper aims to open a dialogue between geographies of alternative economies and geographies of faith.
When the distant stranger is familiar: Medical volunteering, faith and 'giving back'
Nina Laurie (University of St Andrews, UK)
Matt Baillie Smith (Northumbria University, UK)
Benet Reid (University of St Andrews, UK)
Nisha Susan Thomas (Northumbria University, UK)
Katie Turner (VSO/Institute of Voluntary Action Research)
DfID and the NHS are currently investing in international medical volunteering as part of medical education and development agendas. Yet social science scholarship on volunteering has developed separately from medical volunteering research, which has been largely undertaken by clinicians and medical professionals. Faith-based motivations have long featured in medical volunteering. In Christian traditions in particular, mission hospitals have played a significant role in evangelism strategies and health service provision, alongside training generations of medical professionals. This includes national medical staff in the global south and international medical elective students. While there is rich historical research on medical pioneers and missionaries, very little research addresses the on-going role of faith-based medical volunteering in contemporary health delivery. This paper analyses this gap by focusing on Diaspora communities as one significant player in delivering health-based development through volunteering. Drawing on data from two collaborative research projects we examine, 'moral economies' and issues of intergeneration and global citizenship in medical volunteering. The first involved UK and overseas qualitative fieldwork with two Diaspora communities in the UK (Nigerian and Nepalese). In this setting forms and patterns of volunteering practiced range from informal volunteering during holidays in local communities to highly structured volunteering organised by international NGOs or professional associations. The second focuses on the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria where 31 international health links deliver training and support in over 16 countries, representing an a emerging community of practice that advocates for greater NHS recognition of international health experience.