Why Care? Volunteer work and the ethical demand among young Afghan-Danes

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Why care—and care for whom? This article examines how care through volunteer work is ascribed meaning by young Afghan-Danes in a context of various expectations and demands on them from family and peers in Denmark, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Focusing on volunteers in their 20s, with varying roles of responsibility in volunteer associations in Denmark, we pay attention to different articulations of motivations to engage, and to volunteering trajectories. We discuss how young Afghan-Danes’ engagement is situated in a particular Danish tradition of volunteer work, and how both Denmark and Afghanistan figure prominently in the motivations for volunteering. The young people engage and invest here and there, drawing on ideas of universal humanity and Muslim caring for others in their volunteer efforts, and involvement in politics in Denmark. Young Afghan-Danes find it imperative to ‘give back’, and the care involved in this is primary, while an awareness of building network and bettering the CV exists simultaneously. It is suggested that volunteer work is popular among young Afghan-Danes due to Muslim ethics of care and a Danish tradition of democratic, free (volunteer) associations aligning well, as long as the young Afghan-Danish volunteers choose to downplay friction and contention, and foreground the commonalities between ethical sensibilities and demands in the traditions, they draw on. It is argued that this navigation of expectations and ideas of moral personhood from the Afghan and Danish sides is something they are particularly skilled at due to their specific position and ‘composite habitus’.
Original languageEnglish
JournalContemporary Islam
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes

ID: 255451050