Topic: Cultural Dimensions of Philanthropy

A Centre for Global Generosity: Perspectives from African Gifting on Multi-Disciplinarity

Alan Fowler, Chair in African Philanthropy at Wits Business School, South Africa

In order to advance an inclusive study of generosity behaviours, Alan Fowler (Chair in African Philanthropy at Wits Business School) advocates “an academic approach to what is global based on analytic pluralism with sensibility to the wide range of behaviours that can be classed as generous within their moment, location, purpose and effects.” He challenges the Center for Global Generosity to provide “valuable examples to learn from as the world evolves from a dominant Euro-American normativeness to a more polycentric global order and respect for multiple knowledges.” Read more…


Response by Christopher J. Einolf

Global Philanthropy, Global Generosity: A Response to Fowler drawing from Perspectives on Volunteering: Voices from the Global South

Christopher J. Einolf, DePaul University Chicago, USA (ceinolf@depaul.edu)

In his essay, Fowler makes two claims: 1) Non-Western conceptions of generosity are different from Western conceptions, and 2) these differences cause researchers to underestimate non-Western giving and volunteering. I agree with the first but not the second, and call for Fowler and others to bring forth more examples of non-Western conceptions and practices. Heeding my own call, I give a few examples from Perspectives on Volunteering: Voices from the South (New York: Springer, 2016), a book I co-edited with Jacqueline Butcher. Read more…


Response by Una Osili

Response to Alan Fowler’s Perspectives from African Gifting on Multi-Disciplinarity

Una Osili, Research director of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, USA (uosili@iupui.edu)

Generosity persists across diverse global cultures, religions and geographies.  Very little, however, is known about how its practice varies in these different contexts.  Prof. Alan Fowler, Chair of African Philanthropy at Witwatersrand University, highlights the inherent challenges in studying generosity across nations. In particular, cultural, religious, and societal forces shape norms and practices that in turn influence generosity.  Moreover, Fowler urges scholars to go beyond the Western traditions of philanthropy to deepen our knowledge of how generosity linkages are formed within familial and community networks.  For example, in South Africa, Ubuntu, meaning “the quality of being human,” differs greatly from western notions of charity. Expressions of generosity go well beyond giving to formal organizations in many non-western cultures. Read more…