CFP: 2018 American Anthropological Association Panel - The Politics of Language in NGOs

Rosalie Edmonds's picture
Call for Papers
April 10, 2018
California, United States
Subject Fields: 
Anthropology, Linguistics, Environmental History / Studies, Women's & Gender History / Studies

CFP: 2018 American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting (San Jose, CA)

Session Title: The Politics of Language in NGOs: Communicative and ideological practices


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 seeks to examine the communicative processes through which actors in NGOs generate, adapt, or resist forms of ideology, authority, and personhood. We invite authors from a variety of subfields to submit abstracts which explore forms of discourse and communicative practice within NGO institutional formations, broadly conceived. Papers may address such questions as:

-How might NGO practices be shaped by the language ideologies and linguistic repertoires of their staff and/or the people they aim to serve?

-In what ways might the language ideologies present in an NGO reinforce or conflict with local or national language ideologies? 

-What can close attention to the linguistic dynamics present within NGOs teach us about how both NGO workers and their “beneficiaries” reconstitute the practice of development, conservation, etc.?


If you are interested in presenting a paper on this panel, please send an abstract to Hannah Carlan ( and Rosalie Edmonds ( by March 25th 2018.

Contact Info: 

Hannah Carlan and Rosalie Edmonds, UCLA Department of Anthropology

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