Individual Presenters Appendix


NGOs and Social Movements: Ethnography at the Intersections of Engagement

Session Keywords: Social movements, Activism, Collaboration, Alliances, Politicization


Amanda J. Reinke

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Social Justice Inactivism among Alternative Justice Practitioners in San Francisco

Keywords: Alternative justice, Social movements, #BlackLivesMatter

Abstract: Alternative justice models – conflict resolution frameworks outside purview of the formal legal system – ostensibly offer sustainable, inclusive, and cost-effective dispute resolution options. The mission of many alternative justice non-profits and non-governmental organizations is to increase access to justice for populations consistently marginalized by the formal legal system and targeted for state violence. Practitioners often cite offering conflict resolution for racial groups most affected by the school to prison pipeline, high costs associated with formal law, and discriminatory police practices as an important component of their work. Although social movements sparked by state violence in 2014, such as #BlackLivesMatter and Say Her Name, generated potential points of intersection and alliance between organizations and movements, many alternative justice non-profits and NGOs choose not to ally themselves with these social movements. Particularly, older, more established, and prominent NGOs tend not to ally with social movements more often than small, poorly-funded, and less well-known organizations. Preliminary research indicates that economic and political concerns drive social inactivism among alternative justice organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. This paper presents findings from ethnographic research conducted in 2014, examining factors framing determinations against NGO-social movement allyship and social inactivism among alternative justice practitioners.


Yang Zhan

Binghamton University

The Dilemma of Representing the Migrant Workers: the Case of an NGO Defending a Migrant Children School in Beijing

Keywords: NGO, Collective Action, Rural Migrants, Representation, China

Abstract: In contemporary China, NGOs have taken an active role in social movements of various kinds. The focus of this study is a one-year-long collective action that took place in 2011 when a local NGO named Workers’ Home (WH), on behalf of migrant families, defended a migrant children’s school from state forced demolition. In the end, WH succeeded, and the school was saved. However, through a closer ethnographic investigation I argue the representation of the interest of the migrant workers by an NGO, WH in this case, was problematic and even spurious. The WH was able to save the school by collaborating with middle-class citizens, intellectuals, and media so it could negotiate with the state agencies. The support WH attracted from the urban elites was based on the very assumption that it represents the interests of the downtrodden migrant workers. However, in reality the kind of collaboration with urban elites WH sought often requires it to simplify migrant worker families’ multi-layered demands and thus compromises their goal of representing the migrant workers.


Daniela Marini

University of Colorado Boulder

Political Agroecology: Social Movements Opening Spaces for Political Innovations on Food Systems in Río Cuarto, Argentina

Keywords: Agroecology, Food sovereignty, Popular assembly, Latin America

Abstract: In September 2013 the city of Río Cuarto, Argentina, issued a decree banning the construction of an experimentation facility proposed by multinational company Monsanto, as requested by a popular assembly that raised a project against the corporatist agro-export model. Assembled citizens effectively articulated narratives on agroecology and food sovereignty to mobilize support for an agroecological transition in the city, while creating new political openings. The decree, however, represents a situation far more complex than a victory for the movement. The struggle sparked by the assembly is part of a large wave of social movements in Latin America that are forging new democratic systems of governance that challenge the traditional roles of state, society, and market. This research will address one key question: how can agroecology create alliances to expand the spaces opened by social movements to advance local autonomy based on principles of food sovereignty? Drawing on social movements literature and political ecological analysis I will investigate who is producing agroecological knowledge and what alliances are supporting the urban agroecological transition.


Courtney Kurlanska

Rochester Institute of Technology

When Civil Society Isn’t Civil Anymore: Save the Mountain or Save Yourself

Keywords: Civil Society, Nicaragua, Social Movements, New Democratic Spaces, NGO

Abstract: Drawing on the experiences of members of the grassroots movement “Salvamos Canta Gallo,” this paper examines the political minefield of affiliating with different NGOs in Nicaragua. Civil society spaces in Nicaragua are highly contested and often directly or indirectly influenced by various government forces while civil society itself has been described as “NGO-ized.” With the strong presence of the Citizens Power Council (an example of a ‘new democratic space’ for underrepresented members of the population, yet affiliated with the FSLN) in rural communities, and the growing fragmentation of self-identified “Sandinistas” into different parties including the FSLN and MRS, the decision of independent grassroots movements to align themselves with an NGO can have significant consequences on their capacity to bring about change. This paper finds that even when the mission or vision of a grassroots movement is a-political, the decision to seek assistance from an NGO not affiliated with the FSLN is interpreted as a challenge to the party and the activities therefore become politicized. The FSLN in turn, uses the Citizens Power Council to try and bring those grassroots organizations back ‘in-line’ with party doctrine undermining the fundamental purpose of these ‘new democratic spaces.’


Angela Storey

University of Arizona

Untangling Engagement: Deciphering Alliances and Activism in Cape Town

Keywords: Social Movements, Protest, Alliance, South Africa, Politicization

Abstract: In the past decade, residents of informal settlements across South Africa have called attention to the slow rate of post-Apartheid service delivery through myriad forms of activism, most visibly in street protests. Communities in Khayelitsha, located in Cape Town’s urban periphery, are among those who take to the streets calling for improved access to water, sanitation, and electricity. While protests are often dismissed by the media as impromptu events, they can be the result of long-term social movement organizing and the brevity of these spectacular displays often belie the depth of local politicized engagement. Based on 16-months of ethnographic research in Khayelitsha, this paper examines the complexities of social movement participation by examining the transformations in individuals involved with a single movement over several years. Rooted initially in protest action, the movement sought to build political power through alliances with NGOs, civic associations, and development-focused groups. While local support for the movement seemed to wane, organizational links simultaneously provided movement representatives with expanded access to resources and political platforms. This paper examines the narratives of individuals involved in this movement, examining how expanded contact with outside NGOs and resources produced divergent trajectories of politicization and a splintering of engagement locally.



Flipping the Classroom: Toward a Reengineering of post-Aid Delivery Impact Evaluations

Session Keywords: practitioners, project evaluation, bureaucracy, data management, international aid


Amy Greene

Project C.U.R.E.



Desirable Futures: Temporalities, Trajectories, and Hope in the NGO Sector

Keywords: NGOization, Emerging networks, Assemblages, Landscapes of power, Policy interlocutors/publics, NGO knowledges, Information frameworks, Constructions of need


Session Chair: Mary Mostafanezhad

University of Hawai‘i at Manoa

The Chronopolitics of Exile: Hope, Heterotemporality and NGO-economics along the Thai-Burma Border

Keywords: Temporality, Space, Liminality, Hope, Affect

Abstract: In this talk, I foreground chronopolitics—the politics of time—to examine how the hopeful heterotemporalities of Burmese exiles living in nine “temporary shelters” along the Thai-Burma border mediate one of the most protracted displacement situations in the world. The imminent repatriation of Burmese exiles, tens of thousands of whom have been waiting for decades to be resettled, has given way to a “crisis of hope”. Knowledge that the camps are “out of time” has diverted critical funding streams away from border issues and into Burma, which has led to widespread shifts in focus for thousands of NGOs in the region. It is within this temporal and spatial context that the chronopolitics of protracted displacement among Burmese exiles has given way to a political economy of hope deeply entangled in the geoeconomics of Burma’s “opening up” to systems of global capital. The forestalled realizations of exiles’ hopes and potential futures are inextricably linked to not only geoeconomic change, but also the shifting foci of NGOs and stakeholders in the region towards liberalization policies in Burma. In this way, along the Thai-Burma border, the political economy of hope articulates with chronopolitics in ways that shed new light on the politics of refugeedom.


Felix Schubert

Leeds Beckett University

Do study-internship programs in Washington, D.C. catalyze elitism in the NGO sector?

Keywords: Coporatization, Knowledge Mobilities, Elite Reproduction, Neoliberalization, Education

Abstract: My presentation addresses study-internship programs in Washington D.C. and young elites that are taking part in study-internship programs. These study-internship programs (Washington Semester Programs) give both, American and international students, the chance to study abroad while also receiving an internship placement. Popular internship destinations are NGOs or institutions that are related to the developing assistance. These programs exemplify the neoliberalization of both the NGO-sector as well as Higher Education and these programs deliberately sell themselves as elitist. Similar programs exist in many global cities and contribute to the changing and increasingly corporate nature of some NGOs. The recruitment of young professionals and the attempt to reproduce young elites can certainly further elitism in the NGO-sector and hence embeds these young individuals into the frameworks of a neoliberalized non-profit industrial complex (Gilmore, 2007). In order to build my theoretical framework and argument, I utilize the mobilities paradigm (Hannam, Sheller & Urry, 2006), and focus on general ideas of knowledge economies and the creative class (Florida, 2003 and Peck 2007). I set out to explain how these programs are instrumental in mobilizing Washington D.C. and the reproduction of young elites.


Josh Fisher

High Point University

Waiting for NGOs: Chronopolitics and the Urgency of Hope and in Sustainable Development

Keywords: Temporality, Space, Liminality, Hope, Affect

Abstract: Whether staging rapid responses to humanitarian crises or finding “sustainable” solutions to long-term problems, NGOs must often balance structural considerations with immediate needs and the politics of hope. This paper explores how a small development NGO in Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua negotiates these complex topographies of chronopolitics, particularly the heterotemporalities involved in dealing with the urban poor and unemployed. I examine the case of a sustainable development project that involved the construction of an industrial cotton-spinning cooperative scheduled to start production in 2009 but that was delayed for nearly five years due to complications of the 2007-08 financial crisis. The NGO’s desire for long-term sustainability thus came into direct contradiction with cooperative members’ immediate needs—including the urgency of hope—presented by their forced unemployment. I argue for a constructive critique of the settled category of “sustainability” as chronopolitics, and I suggest that its reconstruction might benefit from refiguring in terms of the politics of hope presented in Gibson-Graham (2006) model of community economies.


Roger Norum

University of Leeds

Time and the Other? Liminality, sociality and hope in a community of NGO professionals

Keywords: Temporality, Liminality, Sociality, Hope

Abstract: This paper investigates the role of liminality in the everyday lives of NGO workers, development professionals and other expatriates in the Global South. Through a focus on the context of Kathmandu, Nepal, I consider the ways in which development expatriates respond to transience through the production and reproduction of hypersociality. I define hypersociality as an intensified, urgent form of social interaction typified by rapidly formed, intensified social relations, extensive and frequent social obligation and ritual, and shared discourse of ephemeral social exchange. I use the hypersocial to explore the multiple discourses, practices and processes of meaning-making that together shape notions of individual and collective development expatriate identities. The paper will consider the ways in which expatriates working in aid imagine, negotiate, perform and narrativise local and global identities as a result of the temporal experience of being always, already departing, creating hope for – and anticipation of – future selves.


Lindsay Vogt

University of California Santa Barbara

The Rise (and Fall?) of the National Knowledge Portal Concept in India

Keywords: Knowledge, Knowledge for Development, Digital Media, Informational Citizenship

Abstract: Over the past two decades, knowledge has been increasingly promoted by NGOs and other development organizations as a valuable developmental good. This trend has been marked by formal policy events, as well as the manifestation of NGOs and initiatives whose definitive purpose is to disseminate knowledge. But, what constitutes the knowledge that should be shared for social and economic improvement and how is it organized for the participation of its audiences? I root my presentation in one such formal policy event in India – the first recommendations of the National Knowledge Commission. Shortly after it was convened in 2006, the National Knowledge Commission made the chief recommendation of the creation of knowledge portals on the country’s most important issues. Five national portals resulted; all manifested as NGOs. Some are still active and others, defunct. Here, I analyze the five portal-NGOs to detail the information frameworks they created in practice: How is/was each portal structured? What information was deemed as knowledge and as worthy for sharing and accomplishing the initial mandates of citizen empowerment and political-economic transparency? How were Indian citizens imagined to participate in these informational frameworks and how did they actually? I draw from interviews and media analysis of each portal, as well as 25 additional ‘knowledge disseminating’ initiatives in India.



Investing in Collaboration: Reviewing the Posner Center’s International Collaboration Fund

Session Keywords: Collaboration, Poverty, Workshop, Practitioners, International development


Doug Vilsack

Posner Center for International Development


Melissa Theesen

Childrens’ Future International

Melissa Theesen is the Executive Director of Childrens’ Future International.  She is active in both the local and international communities.  She has professional experience across four continents and has been a member of several Boards of Directors for local nonprofit organizations.  She also has extensive experience in Asian, African, and Latin American communities.  She has worked in Guatemala, Mexico, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, India, Nepal, and Cambodia.  Her professional experience includes grant writing, leading fundraising campaigns, refugee resettlement, acting as a liaison for governmental programming transitions, social business development, volunteer management, managing individuals from multiple cultures, managing multiple stakeholder groups, consulting with the United Nations.


Monica LaBiche Brown

Africa Development Promise

Monica LaBiche Brown is the founder and Executive Director of Africa Development Promise, an international development nonprofit organization working in East Africa to transform the lives of the rural poor. The organization believes that given the right tools, rural African communities can be economically self-sufficient and flourish. Since agriculture is a way of life in most rural African communities the organization helps subsistence farmers come together to build professional, competitive and profitable agricultural cooperatives that offers self-sufficiency and a path out of poverty. Monica has extensive nonprofit fundraising experience having worked as the Deputy Director, Resource Development at Water For People, a humanitarian nonprofit organization that helps people in developing countries gain access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation; and as Prospect Research Manager for the Power of Housing Capital Campaign at Mercy Housing, a national affordable housing nonprofit, both based in Denver, Colorado. In addition, she has twelve years of experience as an Administrator at the World Bank in Washington, DC. Monica was born in the Seychelles and grew up in Uganda. She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Management from Regis University and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Spelman College.


Maria Rosa Galter


Maria Galter joined AfricAid as its new Executive Director in November 2013, and comes to AfricAid by way of a broad international background that includes living in Uganda for over five years, where her father worked for the United Nations. Her resulting passion for East Africa led her to start Into Your Hands-Africa, a US non-profit organization that empowers youth in rural Uganda. She served as its Executive Director from its founding in 2007 until 2012, when she handed its operations over to a new ED, and enrolled in Regis University’s Masters in Non-Profit Management Program.  Prior to her work with Into Your Hands-Africa, Maria worked as the Director of Religious Education at Christ the King Catholic Church in Evergreen, Colorado, where her love for East Africa was renewed through a children’s outreach program to Uganda. Maria also worked at Montessori School of Evergreen for several years. Maria is thrilled to have the opportunity to continue her work for East African youth through AfricAid and, in particular, is excited about the challenge of leading the growth of AfricAid’s reach in Tanzania.



Encountering Philanthropists in the NGO Landscape: A Workshop for Ethnographer-Practitioners

Session Keywords: Funders, Philanthropy, Practitioner-Ethnographers, Accountability, Praxis, Collaboration


Connie McGuire

University of California, Irvine


Katie Cox

University of California, Irvine 


Michael J. Montoya

University of California, Irvine



Meeting Ethnography across NGO-graphies

Session Keywords: Knowledge production, Ethnography of meetings, Institutional spaces


Nancy Kendall

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Nancy Kendall will discuss the disparate kinds of meetings that occurred across community, district, divisional, national, and international scales during the intensive debates concerning educational quality and equality that occurred in Malawi during the decentralization-focused post-2000 period.


Jen Sandler

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Jen Sandler will speak about ethnography in U.S. social reform nonprofit coalition meetings, which are settings where elite private actors, state actors, and local community representatives must create and perform shared sense-making in order to hold together. 


Celeste Alexander

Princeton University

Celeste Alexander will discuss the movement of key actors both within and outside of conservation and development meetings in Tanzania, pointing to relations which hinge on as well as exceed formal meeting spaces, sectors and scales.


Andrew Walsh

University of Western Ontario

In the course of doing ethnographic research with/in NGOs, anthropologists may sometimes find themselves in meetings at which they are asked (or expected) to serve as linguistic and/or cultural interpreters. In Andrew Walsh’s contribution to this panel (based on recent work with a small-scale healthcare NGO in northern Madagascar), he will discuss the insights that might come of taking the profound awkwardness of such positioning seriously. 


Jorge Legoas Peña

McGill University

Jorge Legoas Peña will discuss “participative citizenship” by analyzing the way an agent of an international development agency conducts a rural planning meeting, in the Peruvian Andes.



Redefining Success and Failure

Session Keywords: Nonprofit management, International development, Humanitarian assistance, Practices/practitioners, Project evaluation, Health


Neena S. Jain

emBOLDen Alliances



Internal NGOgraphies: Navigating “Citizenships” In and Through Transnational NGOs

Session Keywords: “Human landscape”, Practitioners, Rights, Responsibilities, Management, Identity, Citizenship


Rebecca Peters

Syracuse University


The Transnational NGO Initiative, Syracuse University

Syracuse University


Patricia Kunrath Silva

Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul and University of California-Irvine


Jessica-Jean Casler

University of Florida





Vincanne Adams

University of California, San Francisco


Julie Hemment

University of Massachusetts, Amherst


Heather Hindman

University of Texas at Austin


Saida Hodžić

Cornell University



Children as Objects of Humanitarian Intervention: NGO Commodification of Disadvantaged Childhoods

Session Keywords: Humanitarian intervention, Childhood, Discourse, Constructions of Need, Commodification


Aviva Sinervo

San Francisco State University

Child Vendors in Peru


Drew Anderson

Australian National University

Indigenous Children in Australia


Miriam Thangaraj

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Child Workers and Consumers in India


Erin Moore

University of Chicago

Adolescent Girls in Uganda


Kristen Drybread

University of Colorado, Boulder

Drug-involved Girls in Brazil


Sara Thiam

Johns Hopkins School of Public Health

“Taalibe” (Qur’anic school students) Beggar Children in Senegal


Colleen Walsh Lang

Washington University in St. Louis

HIV+ Children in Uganda


Estella Carpi

The University of Sydney

Syrian Refugee Children in Lebanon

Chiara Diana

Aix-Marseille University


Caroline Compretta

University of Mississippi Medical Center

Urban Children in the United States


Kristen Cheney

International Institute of Social Studies

Orphans Worldwide



What Is This “Local Knowledge” That Development Organizations Fetishize?

Session Keywords: Knowledge production, Development discourse, Local/West binaries, Conservation, Medicine, Education, Agriculture


Laura S. Jung

American University

Topic: The effects of short-term medical missions on health outcomes in rural Honduras and their broader social effects. This research has identified stark dichotomies with regards to “local knowledge” of health, healthcare, disease, healing, and North American “Western” biomedical knowledge, as well as clashes between local practices of giving and exchange as a crucial component of social relations and North American, primarily Methodist, notions of charity and “welfare” as a negative term.


Laura Nussbaum-Barberena

University of Illinois at Chicago

Topic: The use of popular education as a technique deployed by an organization for Nicaraguan women, exploring its intention to produce place-based knowledge and activism and how that is carried out, and how it responds to the differently located migrant communities it works in (urban, semi-urban and rural). This research shows how popular education, a technique used in the production of revolution/revolutionary efforts throughout Latin America (focused on a social-geographically aware analysis and activism) has been translated into the post-revolutionary, NGO era.


Kristina Baines

Guttman Community College, CUNY

Topic: Local conservation NGOs working with Maya communities in Belize. There is a desire to use “local knowledge” to remove “barriers” to Maya farmers adopting conservation-friendly practices. With Maya communities in the Toledo district of Belize recently gaining “official” rights to manage their ancestral lands, communication and consideration of their knowledge and practices is critical for conservation organizations looking to regulate land use in those same areas. Conservation “givens” are often at odd with local practices and desire for reconciling this can be both hopeful and problematic.


Rebecca Nelson

University of Connecticut

Topic: Voluntourists working with a weaving cooperative in Guatemala invoke the idea that development and indigenous knowledges are dichotomous to justify their value to the cooperative. As alternative tourists, cultural difference is one of the main factors that attracted them to Guatemala in the first place; however, in their role as development workers, voluntourists often view cultural difference as a problem to be solved. For their part, the cooperative leaders are concerned that their relationship with voluntourists threatens their locally-rooted knowledge; the mobilization of local knowledge makes them anxious that voluntourists are establishing “Mayan” weaving schools in their home countries.


Zev Gottdiener

SUNY Buffalo

Topic: My research spans the critical study of development processes on local populations. I contribute through my work in Pacific northwestern Mexico focuses on the changing relationship between ejido communities, development NGOs, and multinational corporations.


Kevin Ritt

University of Denver

Topic: How and why NGOs plan and carry out projects which focus on deploying technologies for community use, and the role of local knowledge in that process. I will discuss a number of case studies from a Haitian/American NGO, including installation of a grain mill, distribution of filtration buckets and sustainable lightbulbs, and an ongoing rainwater harvesting project. My interest is on if, how, and why NGO workers use local knowledge during the planning and execution of these projects. I will be doing my fieldwork in the mountains of Haiti July and August 2015, so I will be sharing fresh data from interviews with NGO workers, volunteers, and Haitian community members.


Lynn M. Selby

University of Texas at Austin

Topic: Local women activists (including midwives) who reside in the popular neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince tag among Haitian progressive NGOs, US-headquartered ecumenical non-profits, and neighborhood associations as a means to bring resources into their community through small development projects. Many of the development interventions geared toward women in the popular neighborhoods and funded by donors rely on their passive rather than active participation, to fill the rosters of day-long workshops or the rolls of donation recipients. These types of projects exacerbate competition among neighborhood women as prospective beneficiaries and provide temporary help at best. Well-intended intermediaries in small NGOs may recognize the knowledges and skills that local women activists command especially well, like home medicine, meeting facilitation, small business-management, and caregiving, but their efforts to engage local knowledges and skills are often uneven and short-lived. After witnessing the dynamics of various projects to professionalize or channel such skills and knowledges within grassroots development projects, I am interested in discussing further 1) the political economic context in which such knowledges and skills emerge and thrive in the popular neighborhoods and similar settings, 2) the sociality and networks of people that animate such knowledges and skills, 3) the promises and pitfalls of NGO intermediaries “translating” or domesticating such community assets as “local knowledges,” particularly in regards to providing alternatives to neoliberal models of development and the devaluation of gendered labor, 4) the incentives structured into NGO-neighborhood relations that vex efforts to engage “local knowledges” for “capacity-building” ventures, and, even, perhaps, for a reconsideration and revision of their institutional practices and understandings about grassroots development. As I work in a country where the prevailing discourse around women who live in the popular neighborhoods discounts skills and knowledges they may have other than housecleaning and child care, I am somewhat sympathetic to the efforts of NGO intermediaries who engage the notion of “local knowledges,” since it recognizes a greater range of subjectivities among poor urban women. Can the idea of “local knowledges” be recuperated or do our case-studies suggest an alternative concept or group of concepts?


Sandra T. Hyde

McGill University

Topic: Over the course of six years in Yunnan Province, I conducted ethnographic research in a residential therapeutic community called Sunlight that was part of what is known in China as a GONGO, meaning a hybrid NGO. Sunlight drew on both the finances and personnel from the state-run Yunnan Institute of Drug Abuse and an independent sponsored NGO called Sunlight to jointly address China’s illegal drug epidemics. My contribution to our round table focuses on the different meanings of the local and how these meanings influence on the ground therapeutic practices at Sunlight. The context of the ‘local’ here involves demonstrating how actors from different agencies contextualize local knowledge, as it bridges conceptions of harm reduction, drug recovery and advocacy. My long-term fieldwork also sheds light on how concepts of the ‘local’ change over time as therapeutic treatment became more difficult in Yunnan’s changing political and economic climate.


Shireen Keyl

Utah State University

Topic: The aim of this study is to examine the interplay between knowledge production of migrant workers, power as domination and empowerment, and the appropriation of space in considering how these groups are able to segue subaltern epistemologies into forms of activism and empowerment in an NGO classroom and setting; as such, this study looks at constructions and deconstructions of power among historically oppressed peoples in macro, meso and micro contexts. In the search for and transition to a subaltern pedagogy, it is necessary to tap into the very voices of those who comprise the subaltern, because, as Kelly and Lusis (2006) assert, “Researchers are frequently interested in understanding the experiences of ‘the immigrant’, as an objective analytical category, rather than the experiences of ‘an immigrant’” (p. 831). According to critical pedagogues and post-development scholars, globalization and transnational movement open up new avenues for pedagogy; to be sure, some scholars assert the development sector is in need of a paradigm shift to accommodate “new forms of pedagogy” (Appadurai, 2000) while subaltern scholars call for “alternative pedagogies” (Sherpa, 2014) for the theorizing and understanding of subaltern, marginalized groups within the educational realm.


Jacklyn Lacey

American Museum of Natural History

Topic: I am a medical anthropologist who does fieldwork around local ethnomedical knowledges in North Sudan and Tanzania, but in my museum work, we frequently look for local knowledges in the contextualization of our sizable ethnological collections. I think it would be an interesting contrast to look at museum display practice versus active ethnological research in museums and how these pursuits of the hyperlocal, hyper specific knowledge for collections’ purposes has some of the fetishistic markers mentioned in a development context.


Katherine L Silvester

Indiana University, Bloomington

Topic: My ethnographic work centers on educational practice for refugee migration and resettlement. Drawing on fieldwork conducted with an NGO that provides educational programming for children and adults in Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal, I explore processes of translocalization that impact teaching and learning, such as when Bhutanese refugee teachers and students transform NGO-imported teaching materials from India to fit the needs of the local Nepali context. I am interested in how “practices of locality” intersect practices of teaching and learning supported by NGOs, how teachers and students understand dichotomizing tensions between the “local” and “global,” and what happens to localized educational practices/values during migration.


Aklilu Habtu

St. Mary’s University, Ethiopia

Topic: Ethiopian standpoints on cross cultural and cross regional perspectives of local knowledge. My discussion focuses on the patterns of changes and continuities of the cultural attributes upon which the Ethiopian view of local knowledge are embedded. The East African nation has a long history of traditional grassroots social organization, expressed in the everyday life of the people. Its peculiarity is that it has played a key role in sustaining the entire social and cultural setup of the society, promoting mutual interdependence and integration at its best. Accordingly, the Ethiopian society remained as one of self-sustaining and self-maintaining society throughout history, even in times of chronic political and humanitarian crisis. However, recent trends are indicating changing trends in the very establishment of the values of the age-old role of local institutions, due to regional and cross cultural influence, henceforth shaping their perception to the traditional grass roots organizations. Based on this, I will present the contemporary Ethiopian stand points of cross-cultural and cross-regional perspectives of local knowledge. Focusing on the recently introduced charities and societies legislative of Ethiopia, the objective of which is to determine the mandates and operations of the NGO working in the country, I will discuss what new worldview is emerging alongside.


Aniruddha Dutta

University of Iowa

Topic: My research project studies the emergence of trans and gender variant movements and identities in Eastern India and how they relate to transnational NGO networks and the Indian state. For this panel, I seek to explore how transnational LGBT/HIV-AIDS activist and funding networks both fetishize local knowledge on one hand, but also on the other hand, construct and participate in scalar hierarchies that devalue translocal and transregional communities and knowledges of gender variant persons, relegating them to only being static and ‘local’ as opposed to transnational development and LGBT rights frameworks. I term this process as ‘localization’ and ’vernacularization’ (the construction of these communities and associated discourses as ‘local’ or ‘vernacular’), which elides the translocal and transregional nature of Kothi / Hijra (trans feminine) community networks and fosters the hegemony and transnationalization of a liberal democratic framework of LGBT identities and rights that reinforces gender binaries and provides upward mobility rather than structural change for these communities.


Angie Abdelmonem

Arizona State University

Topic: My topic explores, in part, how NGOs and grassroots social initiatives mediate transnational and local values in the construction of anti-sexual harassment frames in the period following the Jan 25 Revolution in Egypt. I argue that one technique these entities have employed is associative framing, where they seek to transfer the salience of values associated with one set of practices to another. For example, anti-sexual harassment messaging has promoted sexual harassment as a crime that it is minimally equivalent to, if not worse than, theft. This association of sexual harassment with theft brings together two separate assemblages: 1) the criminalization of all forms of violence against women, promoted by women’s rights NGOs and initiatives who are connected to and funded by various development and transnational advocacy organizations and who seek to amend Egypt’s penal code to adequately address issues of gender based violence, including public sexual harassment, and 2) theft as a socially reviled practice that galvanizes whole neighborhoods to rise up, catch thieves, beat them and turn them into the police. Through this technique, anti-sexual harassment activism connects local and transnational ethics in an attempt to end what they see as the social acceptability of public sexual harassment.


Ivana Topalovic

University of California, Riverside

Topic: My research is in Bosnia, and I focus on two locally run, foreign funded, NGOs. These two groups are some of the longest running, consistent and, at least as far as funding is concerned, successful organizations in the region. My main focus is on how these trauma and health focused organizations impact the way the local community understands and treats mental health concerns.



Development’s Translations

Session Keywords: NGO discourses, Advocacy, Rights, Rhetorics, Policy interlocutors/publics, NGO brokers, Bureaucracy, Management, Constructions of need


Session Chair: Rachel Hall-Clifford

NAPA-OT Field School, Guatemala; Agnes Scott College,

Tamara Britton


Lissette Farias


Briana Nichols

Karla Umana


Ryan Lavalley 

Transnational Information Politics, Power, and the Child Migration “Crisis”: Guatemalan NGO Perspectives on Causes of Child Migration

Keywords: Child migration, Transnational Information Politics

Abstract: During the summer of 2014, a spike in rates of unaccompanied child migrants from Central America detained at the U.S. border brought unprecedented levels of attention to long extant social and political issues perceived as causing child migration. While governments on both sides of the U.S. border faced criticism over responses to the child migration “crisis,” the presumed causes presented in U.S. media discourse went largely unquestioned. During June 2015, a research team from the NAPA-OT Field School conducted in-depth interviews with local and transnational NGO staff, scholars, lawyers, and activists as well as structured observations of NGO programming in order to understand interpretations of child migration outside of the dominant U.S. discourse. Many participants pointed out that child migration is not new, despite media portrayals of a new crisis. However, NGOs may selectively draw on the power of dominant media narratives to buttress ideological and programmatic goals while simultaneously contesting how the same media depictions obscure lived realities of child migrants. This presentation will consider the transnational information politics of representations of child migration across government, media, and civil society sectors and the critical role of NGOs in articulating the complex realities faced by populations vulnerable to child migration.


Nicholas Carby-Denning

University of Chicago

“NGO-ing” as Translation: Acción Ecológica, the “Rights of Nature” and the global movement to keep the “Oil in the Soil

Keywords: NGOs, Social Movements, Translation, Nature/Culture, Rights of Nature

Abstract: This paper argues that Acción Ecológica, an Ecuadorian grassroots environmental justice NGO, has shifted the global debate on climate change with campaigns to keep the “Oil in the Soil” of Yasuní National Park and include the “Rights of Nature” in the Ecuador’s 2008 Constitution. While scholars attributed these developments to Correa’s government (Martin, Becker) and the resurgence of “indigeneity” in the Andes (de la Cadena), I argue that these movements are evidence of AE’s role as a translator, facilitating political and intellectual collaborations between indigenous and environmental movements, academics, and the state for over two decades. Drawing on extended ethnographic fieldwork, I argue that the “Rights of Nature” is a culturally mestizo and intellectually hybrid concept informed by a history of indigenous struggle, postcolonial critiques of the petro-economy and developments in the life sciences like “biodiversity”. I examine AE’s “translations” in three senses: as “recruitment” (Latour) through transnational networks; as linguistic circulation and transformation of “texts” (Bakhtin, Gal), and as “collaboration” between ontologically distinct worlds (Blaser). This case study compels scholars to reconsider conceptions of political subjectivity, the nature/human divide, and the role of NGO intermediaries (Schuller) as “translators” at the intersection of the state, social movements, and the academy.


Eric Hirsch

University of Chicago

Austere Development: Institutional Restraint and Entanglement in an Andean NGO

Keywords: Empowerment, Investment, Daily professional life, NGOs and communities, Austere development

Abstract: This paper focuses on the notion that, like the state before them, NGOs in Peru should scale back, transferring fewer material resources and more pedagogical ones to the people with whom they work—whose “assistance addiction” (asistencialismo, as policymakers called it) risked perpetuating their disempowerment. Peru’s Andes are home to a model in which institutional minimalism and the increasingly austere scale of NGO investment means staking development on already-existing stores of human capital, indigenous culture, and local “assets” that money cannot buy. However, as I argue, NGOs can only make possible this simultaneously restrained resource transfer and maximal empowerment through a different kind of ambition: deep entanglements with the communities where they work, with NGOs filling gaps left by the state even when doing so was discouraged. I focus on an Andean branch of Peru’s Center for the Study and Promotion of Development NGO, where I have conducted ethnographic fieldwork since 2008. There, professionals in a small-business development project were not only entrepreneurial capacity-builders, as their titles suggested. They also had to become civic actors, unofficially serving as financial advisors, legal advocates, social workers, and psychological counselors. I focus on the NGO’s daily task of balancing those priorities.


Juliana Flinn

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Black Littles, White Bigs

Keywords: Race, Volunteerism, Children

Abstract: The vision of Big Brothers Big Sisters is that “all children achieve success in life,” and when in the mission the children they serve are spoken of as “facing adversity.”   In extensive interviews in Little Rock, Arkansas, about images of children and of volunteers involved in the program, the children were almost universally seen as African-American, with labels such as troubled, broken, uncontrollable, disadvantaged, poor, and underprivileged.  Volunteers were seen as white and affluent, leading to a critique by some African-Americans of Big Brothers Big Sisters as a culturally white institution, taking on the “white man’s burden” of fixing African-American children.  I also argue that much of the language associated with imagery of a “good” volunteer is feminized, further deterring minority males from volunteering.


Rachael Goodman

University of Wisconsin – Madison

“They Have Relations with the NGO”: Rethinking What “Benefit” Means in the Kumaon Himalayas

Keywords: Benefits, Discourse, Social networks, Indian Himalayas

Abstract: In the NGO world the concept of “benefits” forms an important discourse within project proposals and reports, describing what proposed projects will bring to communities and what participants have actually received. What constitutes a benefit within this discourse is fluid, including everything from increased income to improved forests. Nonetheless, some of the most important factors that draw people to participate in NGO projects and keep them working with NGOs are overlooked. In the Indian Himalayas, the NGO Deepak has been working with local communities for over 25 years, even when the intended “benefits” of its projects don’t materialize or local people are not interested in the projects it is pursuing. What keeps villagers showing up at meetings and events are another breed of benefits altogether. The social relationships that villagers have built over the years with NGO staff members draw them to participate in projects that they may not think are useful. Maintaining and expanding these connections through work with Deepak can provide people a range of perks and resources—such as sociability, speaking skills, and information—that generally aren’t included in the talk about benefits that appears in annual reports or project proposals. These social relations are part of much larger networks local people create as part of their everyday strategies to withstand unstable incomes and uncertain harvests. Although not every person working for or with Deepak would define these social relations as “benefits,” many readily admit that they are the main reason people in the region continue to work with Deepak. NGOs and their supporters would themselves benefit from rethinking what draws people to projects and expanding their own discourse.




The Corporatization of NGOs

Session Keywords: Corporate philanthropy, Neoliberalism, Partnership, Resource extraction, Citizenship, “Enlightened capitalism”


Anne Galvin

St. Johns University

Anne Galvin will historicize the relationship between capitalism and philanthropy, focusing on the Rockefeller Foundation’s social welfare initiatives in pre-independence Jamaica. 


Karin Friederic

Wake Forest University

Karin Friederic will reflect on the ethical struggles that a partnership with NOKIA presented to the U.S.-based Minga Foundation, of which she is a board member. 


Leigh Campoamor

Lafayette College

Leigh Campoamor will consider how the Spanish giant Telefónica fashions itself as an ethical company committed to child labor. eradication in Latin America by mobilizing a language of digital democracy, children’s rights, citizen activism and state strengthening. 


Amber Murrey-Ndewa

Oxford University

Amber Murrey-Ndewa will discuss how the World Bank and the Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline consortium instrumentalized rights language such that the coalition of 250 NGOs initially intended to “resist” the large-scale extractive project ultimately helped legitimize it.



Civil Society and the Law

Session Keywords: Law, Legislative authority, Inter/national legal frameworks, State/civil society, Postcolony


Maxine Kamari Clarke

Carleton University


Giulia El Dardiry

McGill University


Jessica Lambert

Boston University


Julia Morris

University of Oxford


Nermeen Mouftah

Northwestern University



NGOing: NGOs as a Verb

Session Keywords: Practices, Relationships, Subjects, Interactive Installation


Mark Schuller

Northern Illinois University