Practices and rationales of embodied philanthropy

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, 2018, 23 (3)
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Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. In the past decades, philanthropy, like many aspects of contemporary culture, has taken a bodily turn. This paper argues that embodied philanthropy, the temporarily alteration of one's physical appearance or routine behaviors in support of a cause, is flourishing because the body simultaneously and with relatively little effort serves the various needs of both participants and campaign organizers. The body's multivalent semiotic potential allows it to be, when philanthropically tasked, an income generator, billboard, martyred example, producer of emotion, pedagogical space, exemplar of good health, and style project and to cohere these functions despite potential tensions. A series of micro-case studies of various Australian appearance, activity, and abstention-based initiatives draws on cultural theories of the body to explicate these 7 core functions of the philanthropic body and highlight key concerns for campaign design and evaluation. This study contends that a holistic view of embodied philanthropy initiatives is needed to better understand their impact and provides practitioners and scholars with a framework for understanding an area of philanthropy where practice outstrips research.
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