Faculty Publications

Title

“They Are Just Like You and Me”: Cultivating Volunteer Sympathy

Document Type

Article

Keywords

emotions, identity, morality, sympathy, volunteerism

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Symbolic Interaction

Volume

41

Issue

4

First Page

465

Last Page

487

Abstract

This study demonstrates the centrality of emotion work, especially sympathizing with beneficiaries of help, to sustaining volunteerism. Drawing on data from in-depth interviews with 42 volunteers and paid volunteer coordinators, it explains how volunteers cultivate sympathy, and thus commitment to helping, by framing beneficiaries as deserving. Volunteers constructed recipients as “deserving” along three dimensions: neediness, blamelessness, and impressionability. However, challenges to deservingness disrupted sympathizing, thereby undercutting volunteers' commitment. But rather than quit, volunteers were able to salvage beneficiaries' deservingness by pointing to authority, elaborating on victimhood, relating beneficiaries to their family and friends, and universalizing risks. Engaging in emotion work reinvested volunteers in volunteering.

Original Publication Date

11-1-2018

DOI of published version

10.1002/symb.357

Repository

UNI ScholarWorks, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa

Language

en

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