Ungluing Globalization: NGOs in an Era of Nationalist, Populist Dissolution

The current political moment is marked by dissolutions across the Global North and the Global South. Populism, nationalism, nativism, and majoritarianism are all on the rise.

The AAA will be meeting in St. Louis, hollowed out by processes of neoliberal globalist
‘restructuring.’ The face of this racial capitalism – where the contradictions of the neoliberal state are highly visible – is nearby Ferguson, where a generation of activists took a stand against state violence in the 2014 murder of Michael Brown.

Meanwhile countries in the Global South and North are increasingly polarized and conflicted. In India Hindu nationalist violence is targeting Muslims and resistance is growing. An apologist for the military dictatorship has taken over in the so-called “racial democracy” of Brazil, with a decided uptick in violence against darker-skinned and/or queer Brazilians. Australia’s government (and Brazil’s) have abandoned environmental responsibilities and allowed their countries to burn. Smaller states like Haiti and Hong Kong are spaces of contestation as mass mobilization has met with increasing state violence. The UK has left the European Union and a social contract that safeguarded workers’ rights and offered at least some formal protection for elderly, disabled, or transgendered. People in the U.S. will recognize this as well… hate crime attacks on targeted minority populations are on the rise.

As anthropologists whose engagement with contemporary struggles is at least in part mediated by our entanglement with NGOs, we feel a special obligation to accompany our colleagues across the ocean or across the street in interrogating the roles of NGOs in this context of ‘ungluing globalization’. Does the current moment call for a return to solidarity politics or direct service provision in the wake of rapid retrenchment of the public good? Are or should NGOs play a role in (re)constituting the resistance? And/or are these dissolutions the outcome of NGOs’ anti-politics machine?

We invite proposals for what we hope to be an honest, if painful, conversation in St. Louis in the wake of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election that will hopefully help us find our footing in this quickly-changing context.

Please email Mark Schuller (mschuller@niu.edu) and David Lewis (d.lewis@lse.ac.uk) with ideas you’d like to bring to the table. We are currently thinking through the final format, which will hopefully take shape in dialogue with submissions we receive by February 28.