November 19-20, 2013
DePaul University Downtown Campus
Joan Wish Center
1 East Jackson Boulevard
Interest 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 face conceptual, methodological and ethical issues that require more intensive discussion.
The purpose of this first anthropology of NGOs conference is to assess, define, refine, and invigorate the field of NGO studies as it applies to the anthropological community. We have received several proposals for panels, workshops, and presentations that can help develop the anthropology of nongovernmental organizations. Presentations should take on questions such as the following:
Format & Cost
The conference will convene in downtown Chicago on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 19 and 20, 2013. 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 (maximum $60, and we are arranging accommodation discounts to encourage participation from lower-income participants).
The conference will be organized around several panels and a plenary discussion. It will include a ‘mentoring lunch’ to facilitate contact between senior and junior researchers and practitioners, in addition to a ‘working lunch’ for exploring next steps in NGO studies. We foresee the panels and plenary session opening into broad discussion that connects theme explorations and generates a sense of collective interests and concerns. The ultimate goal of the conference will be to construct an agenda for NGO Studies, including new lines of research and theorization, research collaborations, publishing opportunities, events at the AAA Annual Meeting, and mentoring opportunities.
Tuesday evening, 5 to 7 p.m. is a plenary discussion, with invited panelists and all conference participants answering thematic questions (listed above). The aim is to have an engaged, theoretically rich, participative discussion about the future of NGO Studies.
Plenary panelists confirmed to date:
We have received an excellent set of 15 session proposals, reflecting a diverse range of theoretical, political, ethical, epistemological, and practical issues within NGO studies, from a range of scholarly fields and practitioners and from across North America and Europe.
We want to engage each other in identifying questions we've been asking, theories and rubrics we've been using, and methodological challenges we are facing; we then hope to explore what new strategies, bodies of research, and lines of inquiry will advance our work. We encourage panel organizers to consider alternative presentations from a set of individual papers and to favor a seminar, roundtable, or hybrid format. We also hope that sessions can generate some ‘takeaway’ output for conference participants unable to attend the panel.
Click here for a list of proposed sessions.
As the conference approaches, we encourage participants to contribute bibliographies, syllabi, and article links so that we can build our website for the AAA Interest Group on NGO and Nonprofit studies.
Becoming a General Participant
In 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 July 1st. Formal registration will open in August. The registration fee structure will be moderate, reflecting the outcome of pending funding applications.
To pre-register, click here.
For information regarding conference registration, facilities, scheduling, and other matters please contact Mark Schuller at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For instructions on how to join the listserv, click here.
There are still some slots open to present papers. If you are interested in giving a presentation or presenting a paper, you can contact the panel organizer directly.
Conference Coordinating Committee
Pat Foley (Independent), Amanda Lashaw (UC-Berkeley), David Lewis (LSE), Steve Sampson (Lund), Mark Schuller (Northern Illinois), and Christian Vannier (Grand Valley State).
The Future of NGO Studies Conference, co-sponsored by Northern Illinois University's Center for NGO Leadership and Development, Irwin W. Steans Center for Community-based Service Learning, Anthropology Department, School of Public Service, and International Public Service, DePaul University.