Veil of charity: imagery and power dynamics in the United States Peace Corps

Laura Neale

Document Type Dissertation/Thesis


The United States Peace Corps, formed in 1961 under President John F. Kennedy, was a governmental initiative to utilize the positive strength of socially conscious individuals who shared in the vision of creating a world free from poverty and injustice. With this notion the Peace Corps set goals of both providing technological assistance to those in need, as well as instigating cultural exchange. Integral to the organization's mission statement was an effort to reveal to people in the Third World what "average" American citizens were like, and to put a face on the super-power that had emerged after World War II as the force in the West. The Peace Corps, about to move into its fourth decade of overseas service, has become synonymous with selflessness and charity on behalf of the United States and its volunteers. The thesis presented here sifts through the organization to realize the complex nature of contemporary relationships in foreign aid that is omitted from the existing critical dialogue of the Peace Corps.