“Not to criticize; but to change”: how a NGO in Turkey constructs boundaries between politics and volunteerism

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2011
Dabağcı, Esra
This thesis mainly aims to understand how the realms of “the political” and “nonpolitical” are comprehended, defined and differentiated on the practice of volunteerism in civil society. This study is based on an ethnographic research conducted with people who are volunteering in a Non-Governmental Organization in Turkey working in the field of education. The data were collected through indepth interviews and participant observation by following the volunteers who regularly visit the elementary schools in villages and Yatılı İlköğretim Bölge Okulları (Regional Boarding Elementary Schools) in order to help school children. Volunteers’ strong emphasis on the construction of volunteer activity and political activity as opposing categories and their strategies and rules conducted for avoiding any political representation, their perception of politics as “spoiled” and useless and responsibilizing themselves for their target group constituted the grounds of this study. Basing on the data and following the Foucauldian concept of governmentality; it is argued that the idea “non-politics” is a new type of politics which is experienced in late liberalism. By prioritizing “how” questions, this study discusses how volunteerism and politics are defined and how individuals feel responsible for the tasks which were previously seen as duties of state.