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Who Deserves Compassion? The Moral and Emotional Dilemmas of Volunteering in the ‘Refugee Crisis’

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journal contribution
posted on 06.08.2020, 10:25 by G Maestri, P Monforte
Since the ‘refugee crisis’ in 2015, civil society across Europe has participated in an unprecedented wave of support towards migrants. This article focuses on the volunteers engaged in this movement and explores how they relate emotions of compassion and evaluations about the ‘deservingness’ of refugees. We do so by analysing the moral dilemmas British volunteers face in their interaction with refugees, and the strategies they develop to avoid the difficulties that emerge when judging who the ‘deserving’ refugees are. We illustrate how these coping strategies lead them to emphasise the practicality of their role and to move beyond logics of deservingness. We argue that these dilemmatic situations reshape the meaning of compassionate acts in ambivalent ways: while reinforcing a tendency to create an emotional distance, they also allow volunteers to challenge idealised representations of refugees and foreground the political nature of their vulnerability.

Funding

This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council. Project title: Exploring the Frames of Altruistic Action, 2017–2020. Grant number: ES/N015274/1.

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Citation

Maestri, G., & Monforte, P. (2020). Who Deserves Compassion? The Moral and Emotional Dilemmas of Volunteering in the ‘Refugee Crisis.’ Sociology. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038520928199

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VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

Sociology

Pagination

0038038520928199

Publisher

SAGE Publications for British Sociological Association

issn

0038-0385

eissn

1469-8684

Acceptance date

01/04/2020

Copyright date

2020

Available date

06/08/2020

Language

en

Publisher version

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0038038520928199

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