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Pity and patriotism: UK intra-national charitable giving

Lloyd, Harriet 2016. Pity and patriotism: UK intra-national charitable giving. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis examines the discourse of intra-national charitable giving in the UK. I combine a rhetorical discourse analysis of Children in Need (CiN), a popular charity telethon for ‘disadvantaged’ British children, with that of six focus groups carried out with people who have different relationships with charities (student volunteers, a local Amnesty International group, bereavement counselling volunteers, non-charity related office workers, employees of different charities, and academics). Although the focus group discussions all included some consideration of CiN and its methods, they were primarily concerned with broader issues to do with disadvantage, fairness and, where relevant, charitable giving more generally. Boltanski’s (1999) seminal idea of ‘the politics of pity’ holds that relationships between those who suffer and those who observe their suffering are radically altered by distance. Seeing suffering people face-to-face is not the same as seeing them via the mass media because of the actions that are or are not possible in relation to them. This idea has been utilised in numerous studies of international charity, but so far no one has applied it to situations in which the viewed are in the same country as the viewers. I argue that the sort of (social, perceived) distance that may exist between citizens who live in the same country has similar consequences for their relationship as actual physical distance has. Indeed, representing others as if they were distant means that charity comes to be seen as the only way to relieve suffering, even though in this instance there are, in fact, many other available options. The central tension I highlight in the CiN data is that, on the one hand, British beneficiaries of charitable aid are represented as socially distant from the rest of the population, which makes the mediation that CiN offers seem necessary, while on the other hand their experiential closeness is constantly being highlighted by appealing to a particular (nostalgic) ideal of Britishness. This tension is also reflected in the focus group data: although the recipients of intra-national charitable giving are typically talked about as members of the speakers’ own in-group, there is also a lot of scepticism regarding the truthfulness and reliability of the spectacle of suffering that is presented on television screens and that does not always match up with people’s own experiences.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 15 November 2016
Last Modified: 29 Jun 2022 01:14

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