Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Identity and Equity
Secondary Theme: Labor
This panel examines the communicative processes through which actors in NGOs generate, adapt, or resist forms of ideology, authority, and personhood.
The anthropological study of NGOs has emphasized the great deal of ideological work involved in sustaining the state/civil society binary (Grewal and Bernal 2014; Sharma 2008; Bornstein and Sharma 2016; Ferguson and Gupta 2002). While much work has shown how NGOs’ broader discursive projects of “development,” “conservation,” or “empowerment” often result in various forms of political economic dispossession (Elyachar 2005; Radcliffe 2015; Tsing 2005), many questions remain concerning how such ideological projects are maintained through the complex communicative work that takes place in the everyday interactions between NGO workers and their “target” populations (Pigg 2001; Lewis and Mosse 2006). In the Global South, such “technologies of talk” (Gal, Kowalski, and Moore 2015) often must be cultivated within spaces of dense multilingualism and linguistic diversity.
This panel explores forms of discourse and communicative practices within NGOs across India, the United States, and Africa, whose work concerns topics ranging from environmental conservation, gender, intersectionality, labor and wage disputes. Close attention to the linguistic dynamics present within NGOs offers a window into how both NGO workers and their “beneficiaries” reconstitute the practices of development, conservation, and activism. Across these diverse projects, this panel investigates how NGO practices may be shaped by the language ideologies and linguistic repertoires of their staff and/or the people they aim to serve.