Freda Wagner, M.A.


1985 Born in Marburg/Lahn, Germany

2004–2012 Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, Germany: Magistra Artium Degree in History, Journalism, English and Sociology

M.A. thesis on the protests against the censuses of the 1980s in Western Germany

2007–2008 University of Bristol, United Kingdom: Erasmus-funded semester abroad at the History Department

2009–2012 Student assistant at the Graduate Centre Transnational Media Events, JLU Gießen

2000–2013 Internships and freelance work for local newspapers, magazines, radio stations; designing posters and programmes for conferences, bibliographical research

2013–present Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, Germany: Research assistant at the Department of Contemporary History in the external funded research project “Global Aid: American NGOs and International Relief 1890-2010“


PhD project outline: “Children of the World: The Idea of Humanitarian Sponsorship 1945-2000“

Donation advertisments with drastic images of distressed children and ethical appeals to conscience and compassion which try to create a global solidarity through a familial connection seem to be ubiquitous in the western world. Child sponsorship played an increasingly important role as basic idea, promotionally effective marketing strategy and long-ranging financing model in the international humanitarian aid of the 20th century.

The dissertation explores child sponsorship as a central instrument of humanitarian aid and analyzes the meaning of the idea of international sponsorship as a discursive field as well as an indicator of broader developments in the field of humanitarian aid after the Second World War.

Emergence and evolution of the sponsorship concept and the offered programmes, especially the international expansion of sponsorship schemes together with the displacement of their focal spot to receiving Third World/development countries in Africa, Asia and South America since the 1960s and the increasing orientation on long-run development aid by many aid agencies since the 1970s are of special interest for the dissertation.

A central aspect of the research is the interaction between relief agencies and growing public criticism of marketing, configuration and efficiency of the immediate, often faulted as being paternalistic and having mail order character, one-to-one sponsorship relationship between donors and individual children, which increasingly gave way for symbolic sponsorships of community development projects.

Another research focus is the development of the iconisation of children in the context of humanitarian relief campaigns.

The objects of this study are the big international humanitarian NGOs as Save The Children Fund (founded 1919), Plan International (founded in the Spanish Civil War 1937 as Foster Parents Plan for Children in Spain) and the best known sponsorship agency World Vision (founded after the Korea War in 1950) as well as organizations which adapted humanitarian sponsorships as a strategy at a certain point of time.