Skeptically Self-governed Citizens: The ‘Volunteer!’ Injunction as a Predicament of Neoliberal Life
(2022) Citizenship Studies
The idea that anyone, with the right critical knowledge and a certain amount of spare time and resources, could become a globally responsible citizen has been skeptically questioned at least since the time of Rousseau. But, during the last two decades, the specific concern that has troubled critical qualitative researchers has been the possible complicity of the active citizen with a neoliberal regime of governmentality, a regime that often uses the injunction to volunteer as a political tactic of responsibilization. The article seeks to address this latent concern through the study of a particularly marketized act of global citizenship: the immersive experience of volunteer travel. Through an innovative Foucauldian analysis and original qualitative method, designed to excavate deeply seated skeptical insights among returned volunteers in Australia, this study elucidates, first, how a personal sense of complicity actually surfaces within the market-mediated volunteer experience, and, second, how the ensuing predicament can be tackled, both from the perspective of the critical academic and of the citizen on the ground.
Foucault; neoliberalism; governmentality; volunteering; global citizenship; active citizenship