Mark Schuller and David Lewis. “Anthropology of NGOs.” In John L. Jackson, ed. Oxford Bibliographies in Anthropology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Partly due to tensions around “applied” work within the discipline, and partly due to a preference for engaging with social movements rather than formal organizations, anthropologists’ analytical engagement with NGOs have been relatively slow to emerge. Perhaps another factor has been the uncomfortable similarity between the work that anthropologists and NGOs do. NGO studies and anthropology have therefore had an uneasy relationship that is sometimes riddled with productive tensions, and sometimes with silences and disjuncture. The impact of NGO studies on anthropological theory remains limited to the subfield of political anthropology, but the reach of anthropological studies into NGO policy and practice is more widespread. It is still nonetheless small compared to other disciplines and traceable to individual circuits of anthropologists within aid agencies. In this entry, we can identify three main aspects of a growing engagement between anthropological work and the broad subject of NGOs: the question of how NGOs came to be an object of anthropological inquiry, reflections on the productively unstable category of “NGO,” and the tracing of anthropological engagement with NGOs.
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Keywords: NGO Studies, Civil Society, Third Sector, International Development