Non-Governmental Volunteer Receiving Organisations in Ecuador: Disciplining Global Citizens

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:10
Oral Presentation
Lucia FUCHS-SAWERT, Free University of Berlin, Germany
International development volunteering (IDV) has become a popular practice of development in the last decades: Young people from the Global North go to the Global South to contribute to development – whatever this might mean in the specific context. IDV is actively supported by Governments in the North, like in the German programme weltwärts, which has sent more than 26.000 volunteers to the South in the past 10 years. Most of the practical work with the volunteers is managed by (I)NGOs that cooperate with the programmes. While the Government provides funding, programmatic guidelines, and the public representation, (I)NGOs take over the practical tasks. Especially (I)NGOs in the South are the ones that work with the volunteers during their placements. Therefore, they shape the way IDV is performed in situ, and which meanings and identities are (re-)produced through it.

With a discourse ethnographic approach, and through a postcolonial lens, I investigate how IDV is interpreted from the perspective of non-governmental volunteer receiving organisations in Ecuador. How do they conceptualise the role of the volunteers and their own role? What does development mean for them? Which are the discourses that structure IDV on the ground? First results indicate that the concept of development does not figure prominently in the imaginary of the people involved in the receiving organisations. They were mostly concerned with keeping the volunteers safe and happy, and disciplining them sufficiently so that they would not be too much of a hinderance to the projects’ work flow. However, their lack of experience and discipline was tolerated, because, based on their origin from the North, they were associated with positive values like modernity and cosmopolitanism that the locals supposedly lacked. This shows that IDV, in the way it is currently organised, carries the risk of reproducing traditional North/South hierarchies.