Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Janet L. Jacobs
Over the last 50 years, the United States Peace Corps has remained a symbol of the democratic ideals and humanitarianism core to U.S. citizen's collective identity. Peace Corps volunteers offer the people of the United States and the larger world a vision of hope and justice. In this dissertation, I unpack these nationalistic and benevolent discourses through exploring returned volunteers' reflections on their service with the Peace Corps. I problematize the notion that altruism is central to their commitment to living and working among the poorest of the poor around the world. I call for an understanding of how Peace Corps volunteers' success in managing the cross-cultural experience and working to improve life in their respective communities necessitates an individualistic approach to their mission. I posit that this allows volunteers to have the requisite emotional distance from the organization to critically consider their unique position in the field of international development. Further, I describe what volunteers thought about the Peace Corps and its effectiveness as a means of addressing world poverty. Lastly, I contextualize volunteer insights about the Peace Corps with respect to the current global political climate.
Lombas, Leith, "Individualism in Action: an Investigation into the Lived Experiences of Peace Corps Volunteers" (2011). Sociology Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 9.