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Professions of ‘doing good’


Hegemonic Representations and Aid Workers

By Grace Aroboto, Annie Bradford, Tom Collier, Ieva Pojuner, Camilla Sjoegreen

Our exhibit comprises twin photo collages that express dominant representations of aid givers and receivers as perpetuated in mainstream discourse. One collage depicts representations associated with the developed world. This covers representations of: ‘desirable development’ (Ledger, 2016:73); international aid workers; poverty and underdevelopment in the global south. The other depicts representations associated with the developing world. This covers representations of: aid recipients; local aid workers; media coverage of humanitarian intervention. [Continue reading]

Between a rock and a hard place: the ways in which refugees and aid workers alike navigate agency and identity

By Esmee Cloo, Katie Dove, Brenda Fecteau, Ruby Stainforth, Chaney Watson

Our exhibit is a video poster depicting the conflict between agency and identity which impacts aid workers and refugees alike. Our main aim is to show how by changing the ways aid workers interact with aid recipients it can have a positive impact on their lives. We wanted to emphasise that by treating the refugees as people with personal identity, having hobbies and wanting to have a life rather than just survive, aid workers can accommodate needs beyond mere survival. [Continue reading]


This year, the blog entries are in the style of lesson plans. Take a look! 

The Personal Experiences of Aid Work

Immaterial Labour in ‘Aidland’


This year the blog entries are on Adobe Spark. Read them here: 


‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’: a discussion of the importance of intention in volunteering 

By Amber Seddon, Chaney Watson, Ellen Dickinson, Erin Hanson, Ewan Murry, Isabella Wimmer & Paris Oliver 

‘Volunteering, n. [vol-uhn-teer-ing]: Any activity that involves spending time, unpaid, doing something that aims primarily to benefit the environment or someone (individuals or groups) other than close relatives’ (University of Manchester, 2019). This definition of volunteering stated on the University of Manchester’s Volunteer Hub website highlights the selfless and altruistic characteristics which underlie the notion of humanitarianism. However, in the following sentence, volunteering is framed as a way to ‘make new friends, become part of the local community and develop new skills which will look great on your CV’ (University of Manchester). [Continue readings.]

Negotiating the consequences of ‘Doing Good’: How anthropological perspectives inform Student Development and Community Engagement initiatives at the University of Manchester

By Arabella Cable, Adam Finn, Mimi Hedfi, Anna Milligan, Heather Rayner, Amber Thornicroft, and Miriam Van Teutem

What it means to ‘do good’ in humanitarian and developmental spaces has increasingly become a source of contention. The Student Development and Community Engagement Division (SDCE) at the University of Manchester (UoM) provide the opportunity for students to participate in volunteering initiatives which are aimed at ‘doing good’. According to the SDCE division, ‘doing good’ is premised on ‘doing something that aims primarily to benefit the environment or someone (individuals or groups) other than close relatives’ (SDCE, 2019). The act of ‘doing good’ often involves complex exchanges between volunteers and recipients. [Continue reading.]


Citizens of aidland: exploring the subjectivity of aid workers in the field 

By Eleanor Brooker, Helena Buckley, Mikael Chaudary, Karolina Duskova, Elena Marian, Jake McGratten, and Rebecca Seaford

‘Aidland’ refers to a world of aid or development work. It is driven by good intentions and encompasses the hidden problems that are associated with aid (Harrison, 2013: 263). ‘Aidland’ refers not only to processes and possible consequences of specific people doing aid work, but it is also helpful in understanding the individual positions and feelings of people conducting the actual help – such as self-doubts of aid workers, fear of failing as a professional, racism, hierarchies and power relations within aid work structures (Harrison, 2013: 265). [Continue reading]

Disparities in pay amongst foreign and local aid workers

By Sophie Holden, Isabella Blackley, Ziyad Said-Wardell, Alex Mills, and Momoka Sato

The inspiration for our topic was taken from a series of news articles explaining the stark difference in pay between foreign and local aid workers. One striking report by a local aid worker in ‘The Secret Aid Worker’ (2017) claimed that an expat graduate was recruited to earn three times more than them despite the fact that they had masters’ degrees from universities ranked in the top fifty worldwide. This led us into the exploration of why this happens, what processes allow this to happen, and what solutions can be found in order to resolve this disparity. [Continue reading]


To what extent is it useful to explore ‘doing good’ through the lens of performativity?

By Maddy Arlidge, Inès Decoster, Catherine Long, Julie Olsen, Mercedes Thompson, Maia Tunley.

Through an anthropological lens, we want to explore what it means for aid workers to be in a profession that aims to ‘do good’. Using the theory of ‘performativity’, we aim to shed light on the ways that notions of performance help explain certain forms of behaviour and priorities in humanitarian work. [Continue reading]

Professions of ‘doing good’: The dangers of voluntourism

By Yanling Guo, Grace Davies-Browne, Nat ‘The Nathanael’ Knowles, Diana Potacka, Oliver Swan, Isobel Welton

There is an increasing trend of people, predominantly students from developed countries, exploring parts of the developing world through volunteering initiatives. As a result, this so-called voluntourism has come under greater scrutiny from experts, as well as within public discourse. We want to explore how the caricature of voluntourists as entitled, ignorant or misguided has been developed, and how academics, by utilising anthropological perspectives, have critiqued voluntourism itself. Then, we will consider how this caricature could be deconstructed. [Continue reading]


The moral labour of aid work

By Lily Elizabeth Alice Johnson, Marvin Msweta Fidelis Masubo, Kyle Blain Schmidt, Ruby Thornton, Louise Wright

Anthropological analysis and concepts can be applicable to many situations and help to understand and provoke debate about the realities of humanitarian and development expertise. The anthropological concept of ‘moral labour’, for example, can be helpful in that it focuses on the significance of the process of doing good for humanitarian and development experts; it is not the outcome or long term goals that matter. [Continue reading]

Questioning representations

By Paige Cooper, Tomoe Nakano, Elizabeth Vazquez, Imogen Winter

Anthropology teaches us that everything is influenced by, and relative to, culture. Even within aid work, the notions of charity and altruism are predominantly Christian ideas (Redfield, 2013). Global charities such as Save The Children are rooted in this ideology of helping those in need, such as the notion of the ‘good Samaritan’ (Boltanski, 1999). The representation of aid recipients in particular ways in humanitarian and development work is a major factor in influencing people to become involved in aid work. [Continue reading]