Afgelopen week werden de Speckmann-prijzen uitgereikt. Eén van de winnaars was Tess Altman. Zij won de prijs voor de beste MA scriptie. Voor ons schreef zij een blog over haar onderzoek: ‘Helping and Feeling Helpless through European Voluntary Service: Disjuncture and Citizenship in Precarious Europe’.
Elk jaar reikt het instituut Culturele Antropologie & Ontwikkelingssociologie de Speckmann-prijzen uit het voor het beste Bachelor leeronderzoeksverslag en de beste masterscriptie. Tess volgde de specialisatie ‘Global Economy and Culture‘. Zelf hield zij ook een blog bij: vforvignetteandvariations.wordpress.com
Main Research Focus
EVS is a European Commission-funded program for European youth between the ages of 18-30, designed to promote social inclusion and active citizenship through volunteering in another European country for 2–12 months. My research had two aims: firstly to explore how volunteers made meaning out of European discourses of ‘making a difference’, contributing to social cohesion and inclusion, and active citizenship through their own volunteer experiences; and secondly to analyse the political environment in which the European Voluntary Service was conceived and continues to operate.
A Snapshot from the Field
Every day was a new adventure in the field. From my apartment in Delfshaven, I would bike 6km across the spectacular and futuristic harbour to reach Feijenoord and meet the volunteers. The volunteers worked on a variety of social projects in the suburb of Feijenoord, predominantly with Dutch immigrant communities. We could be teaching a children’s choir, releasing swans into the wild, explaining a new gym workout routine to a client, feeding hedgehogs, running a stall at a community fair, serving gourmet food at the trattoria, teaching children how to make burritos, going to an EVS training, taking Dutch language lessons, making confituur with special needs students, or having time off to explore Rotterdam and the Netherlands. In one of the EVS trainings we got to do the Rotterdam Safari where we discovered multicultural Rotterdam with a tour of a Turkish mosque, a Thai boxing lesson by a famous Moroccan boxer, an afternoon tea and a moving story from an Afghani refugee family, and dinner at a local Pakistani restaurant. There was never a dull moment during my time in the field and I met a diverse and interesting range of people from all over Europe and beyond.
A Snapshot of the Thesis Argument
The thesis examined EVS in relation to a growing body of literature on neoliberal voluntarism. Specifically I examined EVS aims of ‘active citizenship’ and ‘social inclusion’ and whether volunteer experiences mirrored, contradicted or reconstituted these aims. My thesis therefore examined how European citizenship was constituted and performed. I found that while EVS policies and practices sought to construct active citizen-volunteers, due to temporal, experiential and political disjunctures within the EVS program, the process of active-citizen making instead created disjunctive citizens. Disjunctures centred around varying meanings attached to components of citizenship such as participation, responsibility, rights, and obligations. These disjunctures affected volunteers’ identity and notions of citizenship, and European institutional understandings of governance and citizenship. The thesis discussed disjunctive citizenship in a precarious and neoliberal European environment and considered whether disjunctive citizenship could be mobilised in the service of a new progressive ‘arts of government’ or whether it maintained the neoliberalised status quo. The thesis concluded that how disjunctive citizenship is mobilised will largely depend on the agency and potentialities of non-state actors such as non-profits and volunteers themselves, and will have significant consequences for the nature and future of European citizenship.