Native Non-Government Organizations: An Ethnographic Approach
Since the last quarter of the twentieth century we have witnessed a continuous proliferation of non-government organizations (NGOs) throughout the hemisphere, particularly those linked to carrying out projects formerly overlooked by government agencies and community-based initiatives in Northern or industrialized countries and in Southern or developing countries. Within NGO literature, led by economists, political scientists, international relations analysts, and development planners, we can identify theoretical and methodological caveats that contribute to the current dilemma: our lack of knowledge on “what NGOs are and perhaps even less about what they should be called” (Fisher 1997:440). For instance, we find economic and administrative studies (e.g., cost-effective, sustainability) ushering marginalized stories of particular kinds of NGOs without critically rethinking the basis of their conceptual and praxis frameworks and their histories (Edwards & Hulme 1996; Edwards & Hulme 2002; Fisher 1997; Pliego Carrasco 2001). Nonetheless, a serious attempt has been made to classify solid and grounded NGO research into two big domains: global and sectorial (specific) studies (see Pliego Carrasco 2001; Reygadas Robles Gil 1998). Global NGO studies relates to the qualitative analysis of the historical factors that intervene in their formation along with their political, economic, and cultural activities. Sectorial studies pay particular attention to the specificity of NGOs such as their target populations, mission or work principles, and/or the institutions they represent.Indeed, from global and sectorial studies we know that NGOs advocate for social justice, human rights and pro-environment initiatives but, they also may act against globalization, free trade agreements, and prejudicial policy initiatives in local, national and transnational arenas (see Blaser, Feit & McRae 2004; Edwards & Fowler 2002a; Escobar 1995; Markowitz 2001; Pliego Carrasco 2001; Sassen 1995; Torres Banos 2004; Zapeta 1998). Also we do know from sectorial studies that NGOs are funded through private and/or government initiatives with national or international capital, with or without a profitable mandate, and they may target populations in urban and/or rural contexts (Torres Baños 2004:352). Research also demonstrates that these organizations’ governing bodies (e.g., policies, board of directors, funding agencies –including the government) are closely intertwined with local and national realms of political economy and transnational interests such as environmental and development projects (Fisher 1997; Markowitz 2001; Sassen 1995). Here the issue of serving “two masters” remains a poorly explored terrain (see for example McDonic 2005), as Barnsley (2005) puts it: “…the government funded …advocacy groups have to serve two masters -their funders and their membership-”. In this paper I attempt to develop an ethnographic sectorial analysis of native non-government organizations (NNGO) in Canada, specifically in London, Ontario. I launch my ethnographic exemplars of NNGO profiles in London, Ontario, so as to understand their histories of articulations to micro and macro contexts and to study their mechanisms of connections and disconnections with social practices, the state, the government, and Aboriginal leaders in Canada.
Keywords: Aboriginals, Indians, Native Non-government Organizations, State, Government
María Cristina Manzano Munguía
Ph.D. Candidate, University of Western Ontario