Globalizing Compassion: The Ethic of Love and Altruistic Social Action in a Transnational Catholic Charismatic Community

Nofit Itzhak, UCSD

“My study is an ethnographic examination of the manners in which the virtues of love and compassion are lived, aspired to, and enacted in the context of religious practice and humanitarian work among members of a transnational Catholic Charismatic intentional community, in France and Rwanda. It asks whether and how community members succeed at cultivating a compassionate self, or an enhanced capacity to feel love and compassion for others, and examines the manners in which this attempt at virtuous self-cultivation motivates and shapes altruistic social action. By doing so I seek to explicate the manners in which affective experience impacts on, and complexly interact with, moral judgment and social action. More broadly, locating ethics in practice and action, and attending to the manners in which affect – as mediated by specific cultural practices – motivates action, will also allow for a fuller theorization of the interaction between culture, volition, and social action. With the support of the Lemelson/Society for Psychological Anthropology Pre-Dissertation award, I was able to conduct a pilot research in France and Rwanda during the summer of 2011. This proved crucial for the development of my project, as it allowed me to interview and establish relationships with key members of the community, identify potential research sites.”