International Volunteering, Faith and Subjectivity: Negotiating Cosmopolitanism, Citizenship and Development


The article is about the effects of short-term mission experiences of young Christians from the UK who volunteer in Latin America and the relationship between their faith, volunteering and subjectivity. International volunteering is promoted mainly because it is deemed to promote and create subjectivities on the part of the volunteer is may be accompanied by development. This is different from the traditional volunteering which aimed at serving and supporting the poor. The paper especially focuses on the layers and process through which volunteers’ subjectivities and sensibilities emerge as a result of the volunteering activities.

Through the short-term religiosity, it has been found that volunteering does produce a form of cosmopolitanism; that circumscribes engagements with inequality and justice.  This is through fostering of certain ideas of humanity and community hence constituting diverse cosmopolitanism. The young volunteers are able to interweave their contemporary ideas of mission and public imaginaries of development. This is thought to smoothen over histories and inequalities in Latin America.  Development imaginaries are vital in shaping attention to materiality and construction as a way of addressing poverty and what is absent in the south.

Particular modes of acting out subjectivities like expressing faith, and showing pity like giving money help highlight a range of instabilities in the south which are potential management challenges. The article particularly focuses on disciplinary debates around faith, citizenry and development highlighting the importance of stepping outside disciplinary silos in order to understand ways of subjectivities.


The article has analyzed social relations and imaginaries through which subjectivities emerge and shown that how volunteering can create global and cosmopolitan subjectivities that can underpin contradictory engagements with an unequal society.  Cosmopolitanism is known to be temporal and unstable.  There is also need for critical caution regarding international volunteering to create global subjectivities especially to the ways international volunteering may be a way people exercise existing subjectivities.  

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