Whiteness in Development: A Critical Content Analysis of Peace Corps Marketing

Aurora Sartori

Abstract


International volunteering has recently become a popular option for young people who have graduated from college and are seeking career opportunities, professional development, a sense of purpose, and adventure. This Critical Content Analysis (CCA) of a popular Peace Corps marketing campaign looks beyond the rhetoric of adventure, challenging dominant discourses on international volunteering and considering how this phenomenon might be contextualized within starkly racialized colonial histories and global systems of White dominance. Using Critical Whiteness Studies and Shannon Sullivan’s (2006) notion of ontological expansiveness as a theoretical framework, this study explores how ideologies of Whiteness may inform perceptions of the Global South as they productively shape White people’s desires to volunteer there. Primary findings of the analysis include that marketing materials tend to abstract the work of volunteering, that the Global South is singularly represented as a timeless rural space, and that volunteering is depicted as an individualistic journey of discovery. This research sheds light on how systems of global inequality are discursively maintained, and points towards the need to reframe how relationships across cultural, racial, and geographic lines are represented.


Keywords


Race; Privilege; White supremacy; Research; Global South; International volunteer programs; Marketing; Development

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