Getting behind 'no man is an island' phrase: volunteering between altruism and self-interest

Dan Podjed (ZRC SAZU)
Mariella Marzano (Forest Research)
Start time:
28 August, 2008 at 11:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

The workshop will focus on volunteering as a diverse activity that connects people from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds. We will use anthropological perspectives to examine the different contexts in which volunteering takes place and the motivations for participating in such activities.

Long abstract:

John Donne's mediation that 'No man is an island' is a starting point of the workshop which will focus on volunteering as an essentially human activity connecting people from different social and cultural backgrounds. Diverse aspects of volunteering - from social work to nature conservation - will be presented and discussed through ethnographic examples, with a particular focus on the variation in extent, style and context of volunteer activities in different countries. Participants will be encouraged to present two facets of volunteer activities: self-interest and altruism. According to many explanations (not only anthropological, but also psychological, biological and economic) such activities exist not only to unselfishly help others, but also to improve an individual's knowledge and reputation. Through their activities, volunteers advance social status and climb ladders of esteem, broaden social networks and expand social capital. Taking anthropological perspectives, the workshop will thus provide a synthesis of volunteering as an activity that may act as a 'social lubricant' linking individuals and groups throughout Europe and beyond.