The Interest Group on NGOs and Nonprofits formed in 2009 in response to a sharp increase in papers and publications. Nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations (NGOs) are both extremely diverse and growing in importance. That said, the terms “NGO” and “nonprofit” obscure more than they reveal, generalizing a heterogenous cluster of faith-based organizations, grassroots groups, labor unions, women’s groups, and international NGOs. Currently, we do not have mechanisms to even estimate how many nonprofits or NGOs exist worldwide.
NGOs and nonprofits have a lengthy history, playing a wide range of often-contradictory roles contingent upon spatial and historical contexts. But especially following shifts heralded by neoliberal globalization and the “New Policy Agenda” in the 1980s, NGOs are playing more and more central roles in a host of arenas: public health, education, “development,” violence against women, literacy, advocacy, human rights, and so on. In addition, an increasing number of professional anthropologists work within NGOs and nonprofits as consultants, research staff, volunteers, and even directors.
The AAA Interest Group on NGOS and Nonprofits exists to facilitate collaboration among anthropologists who study NGO phenomena across a wide range of sites and social issues. Our goals include: creating a space for dialogue; networking; planning conference sessions and publications; offering a critical assessment of the literature; becoming a point of contact for new anthropologists wishing to meet others; establishing a repository of how NGOS and nonprofits have been studied by anthropologists; brainstorming future directions; and raising the visibility and profile of NGO/nonprofit studies within the discipline and the American Anthropological Association.