Murky moralities: performing markets in a charitable food aid organization

Thirza Andriessen*, Oona Morrow, Hilje Van der Horst

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper explores how competing moralities are brought together in the performance of a market for charitable food aid. Markets, rather than functioning as neutral technologies for bringing together supply and demand, are thoroughly moral phenomena. In markets, calculative devices are crucial for realizing exchange, by facilitating mutual agreement on price and quality. However, such practices of calculation can violate moralities of charity. This paper examines what happens when market practices and moralities are introduced in charitable settings. This is done through an in-depth case study of a food aid organization in the Netherlands that is organized as a supermarket, and part of a broader trend in re-organizing the provision of emergency food aid through the introduction of practices and technologies that shape a market. The case study shows how the socio-technical arrangements which organize market exchange, such as price labels and budget cards, are entangled with neoliberal moralities encouraging financial responsibility. At the same time, the findings show that moralities assowith charity are also present, which can lead to contestations over ‘good’ market performances. Such shifting moral judgements require participants to navigate conflicting moralities to be recognized as deserving recipients of aid.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-309
JournalJournal of Cultural Economy
Issue number3
Early online date28 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2022


  • Charity
  • dignity
  • food assistance
  • market performativity
  • moralities


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