Global and National voluntary sector assemblages: construction of ‘good’ citizenship through volunteering in Sierra Leone

Authors: Alice Chadwick*, University of Bath
Topics: Social Geography, Global Change, Africa
Keywords: volunteering; voluntary sector; neoliberalism; crisis; citizenship; development; Sierra Leone;
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 25
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The voluntary sector is intrinsically entwined with state functions and institutions. In this paper I examine this entwinement by exploring how volunteering is operationalised within a UK Aid funded social accountability project in Sierra Leone. The overarching aim of the project was to improve the relationship between citizens and the state, within this young people’s involvement through volunteering is framed by citizenship ideals of self-sacrifice and resilience. This echoes discourses of community self-help and responsibility that circulate both nationally and globally within the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda 2030. Informed by feminist perspectives on motherhood which suggest a binary construction of good self-sacrificing mothers against bad mothers, I argue that this framework can be extended to the co-construction of 'good' citizenship as sacrifice within the assemblage of institutions that make up the voluntary sector in Sierra Leone. This assemblage incorporates state and non-state actors (both national and international) who address societal 'problems' within the neoliberal template of private-public partnership. This case shows us how the crises of neoliberalism repurpose collective solidarities of volunteerism through the framework of individual sacrifice and responsibility. Understanding how volunteering is connected to citizenship within countries under the purview of the 'development' lens is pertinent to other contexts, alerting us to how ideas about ‘good’ citizenship are constructed globally and mobilised within neoliberal governance to ameliorate the cleavage between those who benefit from the status quo and those who are negatively impacted but seek a sense of belonging and identification with citizenship imaginaries.

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