Anthropologists working with, in, on, for, through or around NGOs and non-profits often face dilemmas that can be hard to discuss with just anyone. Who within NGO and non-profit circles will ever take our anthropological concerns as seriously as we do? And who among our anthropologist colleagues can fully appreciate the issues we face when working with, in, on, for, through or around NGOs and non-profits? Agreeing with Lewis and Schuller that a comparative approach will help develop our emerging understanding of the work and workings of NGOs and non-profits, and more specifically that “learning lessons from others’ experiences is at the core of a praxis-oriented engaged scholarship that a comparative frame engenders” (2017:647)*, we will be hosting a series of online events in which colleagues – whether students, practitioners, consultants, researchers, or others – might meet to share and compare the dilemmas they’ve come to at the intersections of anthropological and NGO/non-profit work. The immediate goal of gathering in this way will be to provide needed opportunities for discussion and mutual support; whether specific dilemmas are ever resolved, we anticipate that the conversations they inspire will be productive to all involved. Over the longer term, we aim to compile case-studies, sets of practical guidelines, and other resources that could help colleagues negotiate common dilemmas that come with work that spans the domains of anthropology and NGOs/non-profits. Nazia Hussain, Kelly Linton and Andrew Walsh*Lewis, David, and Mark Schuller. “Engagements with a productively unstable category: Anthropologists and nongovernmental organizations.” Current Anthropology 58.5 (2017): 634-651.
Session 1 – June 8, 2022; 2-3pm on Zoom
Registration is free. Link here to register: https://forms.gle/ac7sE72ckeVmdTXR8
Taking Off My ‘Researcher Hat’: Engaging Political Desire in Applied Research
In this session, we introduce a Participatory Action Research (PAR) project conducted by community researchers and the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) on the impact of prosecution in Wyandotte County, KS. While applied research in the context of non-profits like Vera can unsettle established practices and narratives, researchers often face severe constraints when it comes to affecting deep structural change. We want to engage the tension that exists in our work between the political desire to take off our ‘researcher hats’ and act as co-conspirators, on the one hand, and the weight of institutional hierarchies, regulations, and expectations, on the other.
The session will begin with a brief introduction to the case at hand followed by a moderated discussion (in which all attendees are welcome to participate) of relevant issues and experiences.
Presented by: Maresi Starzmann, Vera Institute of Justice (http://www.vera.org), Destiny Johnson (youth community researcher), Claudia Vallejo-Torres (community researcher) and Nichelle Barton (community researcher). Additional content by Hanna Hochstetler.
Discussion moderated by: Nazia Hussain, Independent Consultant
Look out for future sessions on other dilemmas in Anthropology/NGO/Non-Profit work, including a session in July 2022 on issues raised when anthropologists act as whistle-blowers in the world of NGOs, and a session in September 2022 on the practical and ethical complexities of working with “failed” or “failing” NGOs.
Check out this wonderful new publication by K. Jessica Hsu and Mark Schuller “Haiti’s Earthquakes Require a Haitian Solution”.
Missed Our Webinar?
For those who would like to review the webinar Disadvantaged Childhoods and Humanitarian Intervention: Processes of Affective Commodification and Objectification (March 1, 2021) here is a link to the video of the event: https://youtu.be/IM17PpE2aFE
For more information about the book: (https://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9783030016227 ).
About the book: Disadvantaged Childhoods and Humanitarian Intervention explores how humanitarian interventions for children in difficult circumstances engage in affective commodification of disadvantaged childhoods. The chapters consider how transnational charitable industries are created and mobilized around childhood need—highlighting children in situations of war and poverty, and with indeterminate access to health and education—to redirect global resource flows and sentiments in order to address concerns of child suffering. The authors discuss examples from around the world to show how, as much as these processes can help achieve the goals of aid organizations, such practices can also perpetuate the conditions that organizations seek to alleviate and thereby endanger the very children they intend to help.