The politics of philanthropy

Amy Singer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


In any era, there is a politics of philanthropy that informs the way practitioners make decisions about benevolent actions. At the same time, there is a politics of philanthropy that shapes the way in which people think and write about philanthropy, whether they are scholars or popular authors. This discussion first provides succinct working definitions of key terms and institutions related to Muslim philanthropy. It then examines how the study of Muslim philanthropy has changed in response to the current politics of philanthropy. Ottoman imperial philanthropy provides well-documented historical examples of how the politics of philanthropy shaped choices about benevolence projects. The examples in this article are based on my own research and the publications of other scholars of Ottoman history. The advantage of the Ottoman case lies in the variety of evidence available, including the physical presence of many large, endowed building complexes, together with their endowment deeds and documentation of their functioning over time. A careful study of these endowments makes it possible to illustrate what the politics of philanthropy entailed for the Ottomans and also raises more general questions for consideration in other contexts. Deemphasizing the state as the necessary framework for politics, while acknowledging a politics of philanthropy, opens up rich possibilities for deciphering the ways in which specific benevolent actions are inseparable from the complex social, economic, and cultural interactions that configure human behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-20
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Muslim Philanthropy and Civil Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 5 Jun 2018


  • Benevolence
  • Muslim philanthropy
  • Ottoman history
  • Politics of philanthropy


Dive into the research topics of 'The politics of philanthropy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this