Caring at a distance: Gift Theory, aid chains and social movements
Silk, J. (2004) Caring at a distance: Gift Theory, aid chains and social movements. Social & Cultural Geography, 5 (2). pp. 229-251. ISSN 1464-9365
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1080/14649360410001690231
This paper takes as its starting point recent work on caring for distant others which is one expression of renewed interest in moral geographies. It examines relationships in aid chains connecting donors/carers in the First World or North and recipients/cared for in the Third World or South. Assuming predominance of relationships between strangers and of universalism as a basis for moral motivation I draw upon Gift Theory in order to characterize two basic forms of gift relationship. The first is purely altruistic, the other fully reciprocal and obligatory within the framework of institutions, values and social forces within specific relationships of politics and power. This conception problematizes donor-recipient relationships in the context of two modernist models of aid chains-the Resource Transfer and the Beyond Aid Paradigms. In the first, donor domination means low levels of reciprocity despite rhetoric about partnership and participation. The second identifies potential for greater reciprocity on the basis of combination between social movements and non-governmental organizations at both national and trans-national levels, although at the risk of marginalizing competencies of states. Finally, I evaluate post-structural critiques which also problematize aid chain relationships. They do so both in terms of bases-such as universals and difference-upon which it might be constructed and the means-such as forms of positionality and mutuality-by which it might be achieved.