The cosmopolitan local: Rethinking international volunteering through partner perspectives

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Although Northern volunteers and sending organisations dominate the international (development) volunteering (IDV) literature, a growing strand of research centres on Southern partner organisations and staff. Drawing from and extending this body of work, this paper examines the identities and subjectivities of Southern partners using the lens of cosmopolitanism, a concept commonly invoked to theorise volunteer IDV experiences but not those of partner organisations, staff and locals. Using cosmopolitanism allows a broader analysis of local/partner experiences beyond the space and time of IDV, and teases out connections between IDV and their global outlook, motivations and transnational outcomes. The paper threads partner cosmopolitanisms through three tempo-spatial segments typically used to analyse volunteer experiences: pre-IDV motivations, the IDV encounter and post-IDV futures. It draws on interviews conducted with Cambodian partner organisation staff and participants of skilled Singapore-Cambodia IDV. It shows how partners are pragmatic and adaptive, keen to engage with foreign knowledges and negotiate difference across cultures. Through IDV, grounded and strategic local cosmopolitanisms emerge. Partners remain deeply rooted and committed to their local communities while being embedded in and harnessing transnational knowledge networks for personal and professional benefit. Seeing partner organisations and staff as cosmopolitan de-centres cosmopolitanism from the domain of the volunteer and elite. It opens up a new vocabulary for articulating partner experiences, and situates their participation firmly in international volunteering networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-330
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cambodia
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Global citizenship
  • International volunteering
  • Partner organisations
  • Singapore


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