04 May 2015

CPF: "NGO-graphies” – the Second NGOs and Nonprofits Conference (Denver, November 17-18 2015)

WHAT NGO-graphies” – the Second NGOs and Nonprofits Conference, Call for Proposals

WHEN November 17-18 2015

WHERE Metropolitan State University of Denver, Colorado

all information here
deadline May, 15 2015

As non-governmental organizations (NGOs) take on roles and responsibilities that were traditionally in the hands of national governments, power has become increasingly denationalized and embedded in new configurations. While the scales of these mediations, service provisions, and representations have typically been categorized as local-regional-national-international, networks of NGOs now connect organizations at the grassroots directly to large-scale, transnational systems. The term “NGO-graphy” (Sampson and Hemment 2001) calls for a critical ethnographic approach to understanding non-governmental organizations and nonprofits. It also suggests a topographic image of NGO networks that both interact with and create human landscapes.

The purpose of this second NGOs and Nonprofits conference is to engage one another in thinking broadly about the patterns of NGO practices as they point to the role of coordination within networks and the factors that direct global flows of resources and knowledge. Together, we will examine how these networks are constituted through the personal interactions, cultural practices, and shifting discourses that give them meaning. Considering the power relations that shape and create NGO-graphies also allows us to problematize the ever-present methodological question of how researchers and practitioners can and should interact with NGOs, which become sources of information about local communities, points of entry, sources of income, and fieldsites themselves. We invite proposals for panels from anthropologists, related interdisciplinary scholars, and practitioners on topics including but not limited to the following questions:

·       How do we think beyond a “case-based” approach to conceive of broader geographies of NGO intervention?

·       How do NGOs’ particular requirements in providing services create landscapes of sociopolitical need, human rights, and value?

·       Where are the “centers” of international NGOs and how do they interact with the “peripheries”?

·       How do “NGO cultures” draw from or feed back into the ethnic, national, and social mechanisms traditionally observed in anthropological research?

·       How are the forms of knowledge valued by NGOs (technical knowledge, local knowledge, cultural knowledge, linguistic knowledge) linked to or detached from geographic contexts, and how do they travel?

·       How do NGO practitioners position themselves as experts with useful knowledge and relationships within organizations?

·       What perspectives can practitioners and activists bring to academic theorizing regarding how NGO networks operate?

·       How can deeper understandings of non-governmental organizational structures aid in developing effective NGO practice?

Sampson, Steven and Julie Hemment (2001) “NGO-graphy: the critical anthropology of NGOs and civil society.” Double panel, organized for the 100th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Washington DC, November 2001.


The conference will take place in Denver on the day before and the first day of the 2015 AAA meeting: from 8am on Tuesday, November 17th until 4pm on Wednesday, November 18th. We will primarily be located across the road from the AAA convention center on the campus of Metropolitan State University. We aim to make “NGO-graphies” as accessible and affordable as possible and are pursuing sponsorship and in-kind support to keep costs low. We will finalize our fee structure within the coming months, but right now we can guarantee that registration costs will not exceed $75. Accommodation is available at the Springhill Suites Marriott, an affordable option that is part of the MSU campus.


At this time, we are soliciting session proposals that speak to the above outlined themes and questions directly or indirectly. Both traditional paper sessions and alternative format sessions are welcome. 

The deadline to submit session proposals is May 15th. Please note that sessions do not need to be completely filled with participants by this date. After the session review process (as outlined below), sessions with open slots will be asked to recruit further participants from our wider membership. 

Anyone with an interest in the ethnographic study of NGOs (broadly including nonprofits, third sectors, voluntary organizations, etc.) may submit a session proposal. Session organizers will work with the conference planning committee to develop lines of discussion connected to our NGO-graphies theme. Session activities should offer a variety of forums that stimulate discussion, including but not limited to panel sessions, workshops, and roundtables. Each organizer will design a 1.75 hour session with themes broad enough to intrigue a diversity of people working in NGO studies or the NGO sector, yet specific enough for both scholars and practitioners to engage one another concerning their specializations. 

Proposals should include:

Theme Definition (200 words): The proposal should explain why the chosen theme is timely and relevant to NGO-graphies and NGO studies. This information will appear in the general CFP and should describe the issues that will focus presentations and discussions in the session.

Structure / Format (100 words): We aim to facilitate conversations and collaborative analyses, so we strongly encourage proposals that employ innovative presentation formats, such as roundtables, break-out sessions and informal lunchtime conversations, in addition to traditional panels and paper presentations. See for ideas on how you can structure your session, or work with the planning committee to design an effective format.

Prospective Participants (150 words): Session organizers may recruit participants from their own networks and/or fill slots with submissions solicited through our forthcoming Call for Papers. Please provide names and planned contributions of potential/confirmed participants (be as specific as possible).

Proposals should be submitted as .doc attachments to Questions may also be directed to this email address. 


For a full version of this announcement—including further details of our theoretical approach, aims, and innovative format ideas—please visit:

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