Anna Bocking-Welch: “Donor demands and political controversies: Oxfam, Barclays, and South Africa”

3:30pm - 5:00pm / Monday 16th March 2020 / Venue: Lecture Theatre 1, Rendall Building
Type: Seminar / Category: Department
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The paper is about the relationship between Oxfam, their supporters in the UK, and apartheid South Africa. It will focus specifically on Oxfam’s entanglement in the Boycott Barclays campaign in the 1980s –which formed part of the wider anti-apartheid campaign–and use this case study to think about how humanitarian NGOs engage with their supporters in dealing with controversial issues and, more broadly, about the changing political nature of aid and development in this period. Scholarship on humanitarianism is a rapidly expanding field but there is still as Bertrand Taithe has argued, ‘much work to be done on what these charities actually represent to those who contribute to their existence.’ The paper analyses letters of complaint that Oxfam received about its South Africa policies between 1970 and 1990. It argues that the letters give a much richer sense of the public’s engagement with humanitarianism than the quantitative data from opinion polls and donation income that we might otherwise rely on as indicators of public opinion.