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Keywords:

  • charity;
  • helping behaviour;
  • national identity;
  • social identity;
  • intergroup relations;
  • discourse analysis

Abstract

Research on helping behaviour has emphasized the importance of the group and particularly the nation in establishing the norms and boundaries of emergency helping. Less attention has been paid to the role of the national group in longer-term routine helping such as charitable giving. This is particularly important given recent research on intergroup helping which points to the impact of power relations on willingness of national groups to give and receive aid. The present research examines people's accounts of charitable giving in their day-to-day lives in Ireland, a country which has recently undergone a transformation in economic development and international relations. Discursive analysis of five focus groups with 14 Irish university students illustrates how participants proactively invoke national identity to account for giving or withholding charity. Our findings demonstrate how Irish national identity can be strategically and flexibly used to manage participants' local moral identity in the light of Ireland's changing international relations and in particular how participants display concerns to be seen to intend ‘autonomous’ rather than ‘dependency’-oriented helping. The findings suggest that both national identity and international relations provide resources for individuals negotiating the complex demands and concerns surrounding charitable giving. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.