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Charity and philanthropy in South Asia (JOURNAL SPECIAL ISSUE)

posted on 2023-06-07, 07:51 authored by Tom Widger, Filippo OsellaFilippo Osella
1. There are no reliable figures to help us measure the volume of charitable donations in South Asia but, according to the 2014 World Giving Index, Sri Lanka is ranked ninth in the world for the charitable efforts of its citizens, while other South Asian countries figure in the top 75 out of 135 countries surveyed. According to the same index, India comes first in the world for the overall number of people donating money to charities and volunteering for social causes; Pakistan is ranked sixth for the number of charitable donations; India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are within the top ten countries for the number of people who have ‘helped a stranger’ in the 12 months prior to the survey. According to a 2001 survey by the Sampradaan Centre for Indian Philanthropy, among members of the A–C socio-economic classes, 96 per cent of respondents donated annually an average of Rs 1,420. The total amount donated was Rs 16.16 billion. Two surveys conducted in West Bengal and Sri Lanka suggest that South Asians across the social spectrum contribute readily to charity. 2. Recent research on contemporary modalities of Islamic or Muslim philanthropy has focused on processes of subjectivation through which givers and recipients of charity are habituated or craft themselves to an ethic of piety, social responsibility and (neoliberal) economic virtuosity. These studies, however, have concentrated almost exclusively on those who give charity, leading to an over-emphasis on the perspectives of givers, and on their role in determining how the poor might deal with their everyday lives and imagined futures. As a result, small-scale gifting relations in which the Muslim poor may also be involved—making the poor simultaneously givers and recipients of charity—have been obscured or erased altogether. In this article we argue that the concerns of the poor might not always or necessarily be those of the wealthy donors of charity. By receiving and giving sadaqa and zakat, poor and working class Muslim in a Colombo neighbourhood imagine inclusion and belonging to the wider Muslim community in Colombo which is not contingent upon the mediation and pedagogical interventions of charitable organizations and (middle-class) pious donors. Importantly, this imagination of inclusion and belonging comes at a time when the Muslim poor are increasingly marginalized by virtue of a (middle class) discourse which by framing charity as a means ‘to help the poor to help themselves’ has turned socio-economic upliftment into an ethical duty, and, consequently, failure to improve oneself has become the symptom of wider moral shortcomings.


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Cambridge University Press








Modern Asian Studies

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  • Anthropology Publications


his is an edited book edited by Tom Widger, Filippo Osella

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Tom Widger, Filippo Osella

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