Inequitable Ruptures, Rupturing Inequity: Theorizing the impacts of COVID-19 and racial injustice on Global Service Learning

May 12, 2021

The Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning (MJCSL), in partnership with the Community-based Global Learning Collaborative, is pleased to invite proposals for a special section on Global Service Learning. The section will be guest edited by Dr. Katie MacDonald and Dr. Jessica Vorstermans and will be included in the Summer 2022 issue of MJCSL. It will also feature an epilogue by Dr. Eric Hartman and Dr. Richard Kiely. We, the editors, would like to extend our gratitude to Dr. Hartman and Dr. Kiely for your generous and generative conversations to bring this call for proposals to where it is today. 

MJCSL is an open-access, peer reviewed journal focusing on research, theory, pedagogy and other matters related to civic engagement, academic service-learning, campus-community partnerships, and engaged/public scholarship in higher education. Learn more about the goals of the journal on our website.

2020/2021 has presented ruptures that have unveiled ongoing and intersecting social pandemics such as anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, white supremacy, patriarchy, classism, and ableism in the context of a global health pandemic (Brand, 2020).  We (the guest editors) propose three ruptures as moments for imagining – and doing – otherwise: (i) the Black Lives Matter movement and increased mainstream attention to racial inequity, (ii) COVID-19 and new imaginings of travel, mobility, and safety (iii) mutual aid as increasingly necessary in a pandemic and as a possible relational way forward. This special issue takes these ruptures as a starting point for re-imagining learning and movement as relational.

We invite articles that take up these ruptures not only as a space for possibility – as the pandemic and new orientations to travel might break down Global Service Learning (GSL) completely – but also as an opportunity to disturb the idea that GSL is in itself a harmonious or reciprocal practice. In this call, we use the term “Global Service Learning” (GSL) to capture a multiplicity of programs that facilitate service work for people across borders. (1) Much of the framework of GSL assumes and relies on the affective experience of living alongside hosts in the Global South as a pedagogical tool for transformation (Conran 2011; MacDonald 2016); the assumption of GSL pedagogy is that, as students begin to care about those they get to know during GSL experiences, they begin to care more broadly about the world. However, the critical literature suggests that this assumption is, in fact, problematic (Mahrouse 2015, Mostafenezhad 2013); affect and pedagogies are much more complex than this simple causal narrative would suggest. Indeed, while hosts recognize the power and importance of relationships to coalition building, movements, and the transformative potential of GSL, the labor required to build and maintain these relationships should not be forgotten (Hernandez and Rerrie, 2018). 

We position this call in/as a continuing conversation with the critical literature that asks scholars and practitioners to engage with deep critiques of the uneven power relations that GSL reproduces, the depoliticization and decontextualization that often shapes programing, the centering of Western practices and pedagogies, and the uplifting of Western students as the primary (or only) participants in GSL experiences (Zemach-Bersin, 2007). This special section also builds on important work in two special sections of the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, edited by Eric Hartman and Richard Kiely (2014 & 2015). We seek papers that help scholars and practitioners think through this present moment and re-orient GSL in more just and equitable ways. We are particularly interested in diverse frameworks that invite and guide questions around mutuality and relationality and that center those who experience inequity and oppression as they seek alternative futures for GSL. For example, how does transnational feminist theory orient our attention to the experiences of host mothers and foreground their gendered and racialized labor and the often inequitable compensation of host families? How might critical disability theory’s insistence on a relational understanding of disablement as created through transnational processes of capitalism challenge the possibility of a benevolent helper who is not separate from those processes but, rather, is implicated in them? We welcome both papers that critique and papers that pursue alternative building to combat relational inequity.

We also particularly welcome scholarly articles that incorporate reflective writing from host and receiving organizations, host families, and/or student participants. We seek papers that uncover the complexity of this moment, plural understandings of how this moment is being lived, and the need for a meaningful centering of knowledge from hosts as we work to build a more reciprocal and equitable GSL during and beyond the pandemic.


Before submitting, you should thoroughly review MJCSL’s proposal guidelines. The guest editors welcome abstracts via email for informal feedback; please inquire before July 1, 2021. Full proposals for the special section are due August 1st, 2021 and should be emailed to 


Brand, D. (2020, July, 4). On narrative, reckoning and the calculus of living and dying. The Toronto Star. Accessed on January 27, 2021 from:

Conran, M. (2011) They really love me!: Intimacy in volunteer tourism. Annals of Tourism Research, 38(4), Pp. 1454-1473.

Hartman, E. and Kiely, R. (2014). Pushing Boundaries: Introduction to Global Service-Learning Special Section. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 21(1):55-63.

Hernandez, X. and Rerrie, A. (2018). Where are the Host Mothers? How Gendered Relations Shape the International Experiential Learning Program Experience for Women in the South. Journal of Global Citizenship & Equity Education, 6(1).

Kiely, R. and Hartman, E. (2015). Introduction: Special Section on Global Service Learning Reflexivity in Research: Reflecting on the Borders and Boundaries of the GSL Field. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 22(1) 48-52.

MacDonald, K. (2016). Pedagogical Encounters and Volunteer Abroad in Nicaragua. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations on January 22, 2017 from

Mahrouse, G. (2015). The intensification and commodification of emotion: Declarations of intimacy and bonding in college field trips to the Global South. In Flam, H. & Keres, J. (Eds.). Methods of Exploring Emotions. Routledge: London & New York.

Mostafanezhad, M. (2013). The Politics of Aesthetics in Volunteer Tourism. Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 43, pp. 150-169.

Zemach-Bersin, T. (2007). Global citizenship and study abroad: It’s all about US. Critical Literacy: Theories and Practices, 1(2), 16-28.

  1. By borders we mean not only those boundaries between nation-states but also other examples including but not limited to racialized borders, cultural borders, and nation-to-nation borders such as those between Canada and many First Nations.

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