Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2012

Document Type

Thesis

First Advisor

Andrea Feldman

Abstract

I became fascinated with beggars on a trip backpacking around Europe and North Africa when I was 20; during this trip while visiting Morocco, I sat in a sidewalk café watching a beggar, a “blind” man who appeared to always know whom to run into. After several days I realized that I was watching him perform so that he could beg more successfully. After that I started watching beggars: watching the performance. This became an interesting thing for me and I continued to do so when I returned to the United States and then again when I traveled through the Middle East and Asia a few years later. As I began to conceive of this idea for an honors thesis, many more aspects about beggars and begging began to fascinate me: their legal status, how society viewed and treated them generally, giving and receiving as related to them, how religious and secular ethics treated the issue of begging and many more. I used my own personal experiences with beggars in these three countries to construct this thesis; I also consulted a wide variety of sources, both academic and popular press. Begging is a desperate and dehumanizing act, and beggars are almost uniformly treated and viewed poorly. Though there were, of course, many differences due to culture and religion, I found that begging is performed, treated and viewed much more similarly than I expected in all three countries: Morocco, India and the United States.

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