Doctoral candidate Faith R. Kares (Northwestern University), supervised by Dr. Micaela di Leonardo, will undertake research in Metro-Manila, Philippines, where Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), such as Gawad Kalinga (GK), partner with poor and working class residents to create affordable housing. GK is an ideal case study with which to examine two deeply intertwined phenomena - the way that governments delegate and NGOs assume responsibility for certain social services, and how these NGOs then use nationalist discourse in their attempts to obtain support from members of the Filipino diaspora. By focusing on the particulars of GK's practices and the ways that these practices are embedded within a particular historical political-economic context, the research will investigate growing transnational linkages, shedding light on the nature of NGO functions in economic contexts.
The researcher will use participant observation, oral histories, and semi-structured interviews to document how local residents, GK staff, and foreign youth volunteers understand their involvement in the organizations development efforts. She will examine how the organization measures efficacy and success, and will pay special attention to interactions between residents and foreign youth volunteers. She will also conduct discourse/conversation analysis, and collect and analyze material evidence.
The project will address the social significance and characteristics of the increasing role of NGOs in development discourse and action, and the ways that different groups of people strategically engage with these institutions. Research findings may also be useful in policy considerations.
By attending to the manner in which Gawad Kalinga deploys affect and nationalist rhetoric to encourage volunteerism I highlight how the NGO creates different categories of groups eligible for various types of rights and benefits, deploys affect and nationalist rhetoric. In so doing, I build on anthropological writings on cultural citizenship (e.g., see Aihwa Ong, 2006). I hope my case study of Gawad Kalinga will shape the direction of social movements literature, by illustrating the role of NGOs in creating and sustaining emergent diasporic activism, specifically among Filipino American youth, and more broady international civil society (see Coombe 1997, Eschle 2001, Falk 2005, Fisher 1997, Lipschutz 2006). Furthermore, by bridging often-separate literatures--social movements on the one hand and NGOs on the other--I bring to the fore burgeoning transnational linkages and social movements, and in, so doing, work toward addressing questions about the functions of NGOs in our neoliberal economic present. I therefore draw attention to the dynamic relationships between NGOs and social movements at the local and national levels, especially the ways in which NGOs often initiate or sustain social movements. Ultimately, my research findings shed light on the implications of NGO growth in neoliberal globalization, such as the unintended consequences of NGO activities on the lives of people whom they claim to serve, emergent social movements and/or transnational networks, and new conceptions of citizenship and notions of belonging. By bringing ethnographic research to bear on studies of NGOs we can examine more closely and critically the actual workings and impact of NGO efforts, as well as attend to the structural factors that condition the unintended consequences of what may be perfectly well intentioned actions (Fisher 1997, Gledhill 2006).