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What Matters?Ethnographies of Value in a Not So Secular Age$
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Courtney Bender and Ann Taves

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231156851

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231156851.001.0001

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Volunteer Experience

Volunteer Experience

Chapter:
(p.119) Volunteer Experience
Source:
What Matters?
Author(s):

Erica Bornstein

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231156851.003.0005

This chapter discusses the concept of volunteering and links it to Victor Turner's notion of experience. The concept of volunteering surpasses the forms of humanitarian practice such as financial donation and professional aid work, and contrasts the productive realm of wage work. It enters into an arena of free action that is not coerced and selfless; thus allowing itself to be constituted as an “experience.” Some people seek out volunteer experiences, while others try to encourage people to volunteer. The bounded experience of volunteering brings the volunteer closer to the afflicted, the poor, the suffering, and the needy. Victor Turner notes that the experience of volunteering is triggered by “expression, or communication with others”—one that may seem structurally similar to a religious experience but different from spiritual transformation in its category as a secular practice.

Keywords:   Victor Turner, volunteering, experience, spiritual transformation, secular

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