Scholarly and public interest in the disproportionate influence of philanthropy in international development continues to grow. This panel will explore institutional mechanisms through which this influence is exercised. Contributions on non-US and non-Western philanthropy are particularly welcomed.
Over the last decade, scholarly and public interest in the role of philanthropy in international development has grown significantly. Departing from proponents' naive belief in its power to 'save the world' (Bishop and Green 2010); critics of philanthropy have characterised it as cultural imperialism, hegemony, and complicitous in USA's 'soft power' (Arnove 1980, Parmar 2012, Roelofs 2003). Building on the critical, interdisciplinary scholarship on private philanthropy and international development but departing—somewhat—from which, we wish to focus on the institutional mechanisms by which philanthropic foundations have exercised their disproportionate influence on international development. That is, instead of describing philanthropic foundations' influence (as hegemonic, dominant, etc.), we are more interested in understanding and theorising this influence. One possible way, we suggest, of doing this is through the metaphorical use of bridges—connecting, bypassing and traversing—developmental epochs, geographies, imaginaries, and institutions. We invite contributions that interpret, interrogate, theorise (and even critique) philanthropic foundations' influence through their institutional mechanisms of bridging. In addition to the expected criticisms of large US philanthropic foundations, we welcome contributions on non-American, particularly non-Western philanthropy, which has so far received limited scholarly attention; thus opening up debate on private philanthropy and international development.