Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Iskra Fileva

Second Advisor

Ajume Wingo

Third Advisor

Sabrina Sideris

Fourth Advisor

Dominic Bailey


The purpose of this research is to investigate the ways the aid industry affects its intended beneficiaries. My initial inquiries include: what the relevant needs/rights of poor people are, if our actions create or combat suffering, and whether our intentions matter when it comes to philanthropy. Through this process I assert that despite people's best intentions, the majority of benevolent efforts are not only ineffective but damningly detrimental. The inherent inequality of the giver-receiver relationship apparent in the aid industry has perpetuated oppression worldwide. And unfortunately, whether it be due to a lack of accountability or an immunity to critique, problematic programs in the nonprofit world continue to be perpetuated. My research clearly reveals that privilege, dominance, and subjugation are intimately interwoven into the fabric of charity, and if not properly addressed, philanthropic endeavors will continue to hurt those it intends to help. Thankfully, my investigation also reveals multiple alternative models and tactics that can be used to combat such injustices. As such, I argue for a series of steps and methodologies that should be implemented as a preliminary measure to heal the gaping wound caused by toxic charity.