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Implications of Turning People and Humanitarian Causes into Marketable Things

Funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research

Commodifying Compassion seeks to understand how ‘helping’ has become a marketable commodity and how this impacts humanitarianism symbolically and materially.  An international team of researchers funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research will examine ethical consumption intended to benefit humanitarian causes from the perspectives of consumers, businesses, NGOs and recipients. This is the first project to include the cause beneficiaries’ regimes of value as an important component in understanding the ethical dilemmas of ‘helping.’  The research will produce a better understanding by humanitarian organizations and businesses leading to more ethical fundraising, donors weighing consumption-based models as part of more effective aid, and consumers making more informed choices about ‘helping’ by buying brand aid products.


Commodifying Compassion will explore the dynamics of consumption for a humanitarian cause in three different contexts where humanitarianism has been a realm traditionally dominated by the state (Denmark), the church (Italy) and the market (United States).


For a brief overview of the types of humanitarianism and humanitarian actors this project engages with, read this piece on Everyday Humanitarianism in consumption, entertainment and social media.

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