Future of NGO Studies
for Session Organizers and General Participation
in NGOs is rapidly growing among anthropologists. The American Anthropological
Association’s Special Interest Group on NGOs and Nonprofits is now the largest
SIG, with over 1,000 members. Scholars are studying NGOs, nonprofits, and
voluntary associations in connection with a vast array of cultural processes,
including governance, social movements, professionalization, militarization, morality,
religion, gender, neocolonialism, and neoliberal restructuring. The
proliferation of studies is, on the one hand, advancing understanding of
theoretical and practical issues by bringing scholars together to explore
connections across diverse geographies and to debate the changing power and
significance of NGOs. On the other hand, the immense number and diversity of
nongovernmental organizations worldwide has produced a fragmented body of
research and divergent styles of engagement by anthropologists, ranging from
active participation to more traditional ‘fly on the wall’ fieldwork.
Anthropologists practicing ‘NGO-graphy’ confront the question of whether NGOs
comprise a coherent object of analysis. Collectively, we are faced with
conceptual, methodological, and ethical issues that require more intensive
purpose of the conference is to assess, define, refine, and invigorate the
field of NGO studies. We invite proposals for panels, workshops, or
presentations that can help develop the anthropology of nongovernmental
organizations. We envision that these meta-level, field-building conversations
will complement research presentations at the AAA. Proposals may take on
questions such as (but not limited to) the following:
can the discipline of anthropology distinctly bring to the study of NGOs?
can NGO studies contribute to political and cultural anthropology more broadly?
are the advantages and pitfalls of institutionalizing NGO Studies as a distinct
field of anthropological inquiry?
there a canon of studies that defines the area of inquiry?
new methodologies, theories, and critiques are needed to help us properly
understand NGOs in all their diversity? What analytical questions are raised
about the category ‘NGO’ when its diverse manifestations and meanings are
can academic studies of NGOs support the pragmatic needs of practitioners and
activists? In what way can NGO practitioners and activists contribute to
academic studies? How should we approach the diverse epistemological
standpoints of interested thinkers?
should anthropologists negotiate issues of participation and distance in
working with NGOs?
conference will take place in Chicago on the day before and the day of the
start of the 2013 meeting of the AAA. The meeting location will be close to the
AAA site. Our goal is to host the Future of NGO Studies conference at the most
accessible cost to participants. Minimally, we will charge a low registration
fee (max $60) to cover the meeting space, food, and web registration service
and offer discounts to participants without access to conference funds.
Ideally, we will be able to cover all conference costs for all participants and
offer accommodation discounts for lower-income participants.
conference will be organized around several sessions planned in response to the
questions above. To maximize participation, each session will have an organizer
who will be responsible for designing the exploration of a chosen theme.
November 19 will be the principal day for discussion, with concurrent sessions
in the morning and again that afternoon, including an on-site lunch. The
afternoon will culminate in a plenary session during which conference
participants will share observations and conclusions from the day’s activities,
and leading NGO scholars will offer comments on the state and possible futures
of NGO research. Our hope is that the plenary session will open into broad
discussion that connects theme explorations and generates a sense of collective
interests and concerns.
discussions on November 20 will focus on constructing an agenda for NGO
Studies, including new lines of research and theorization, research
collaborations, publishing opportunities, events at the AAA Annual Meeting, and
this time, interested participants may 1) propose to organize a conference
session or 2) indicate general interest in attending.
A SESSION ORGANIZER
organizers will work with the conference planning committee to develop lines of
discussion that focus on conceptual, practical, political and/or ethical issues
surrounding NGO research. It is hoped that session activities will offer a
variety of forums that stimulate discussion, including panel sessions,
workshops, and roundtables. Each organizer will design a two-hour session to
engage 10 to 15 other conference participants. Session themes should be broad
enough to intrigue anyone working in NGO Studies or engaged in NGO work, yet
specific enough for both scholars and practitioners to engage one another
concerning their specializations. Proposed themes may address the questions
listed above directly or indirectly. Examples include: dilemmas of participant
observation, taking stock of theoretical resources, collaborations between NGO
workers and researchers, doing critical ethnographies of NGOs, and comparing an
anthropological approach to other methods of studying NGOs.
organizers may recruit some activity proposals from their own networks and fill
some slots with submissions solicited through our forthcoming Call for
with an interest in the anthropological study of NGOs (nonprofits, third
sectors, voluntary organizations, etc.) is invited to submit proposals for
sessions. Proposals should include:
Definition and Preliminary Structure (300 words): The proposal
should explain why the chosen theme is timely and
relevant to advancing NGO studies. This information will appear in the
general CFP and should describe the issues that will focus
presentations and discussions in the session. The description should
also include a preliminary structure for engaging participants
in focused and lively exploration of theme issues. Organizers may
utilize a session format of their choosing or work with the
planning committee to design an effective format.
Participants (200 words): Session organizers are responsible for
recruiting participants through personal networks. In the proposal, provide
names and planned contributions of potential/confirmed participants (be as
specific as possible), but please remain open to collaboration with new
colleagues identified through the general CFP.
should be submitted as an attachment to Christian Vannier at email@example.com by March 1. Questions
may also be directed to this email address. Session organizers are also welcome
to participate in the planning conference call to be held the following week.
Announcements will be made by April 1. Calls for
proposals for each session will go out immediately following session organizer
A GENERAL PARTICIPANT
order to help us gauge space and fundraising requirements, we ask that all
participants interested in attending the conference indicate their intent with
a no-cost pre-registration by March 1. Complete registration will open just
after AAA submission notifications in August. At that point, a sliding fee
structure will be assessed based on success at fundraising and estimates of
attendance and costs.
pre-register, go to: http://doodle.com/p9ywz8h7m5du6xp5
information regarding conference registration, facilities, scheduling, and
other matters please contact Mark Schuller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
instructions on how to join the SIG listserv, visit https://listserv.temple.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A0=NGOS_AND_ANTHROPOLOGY