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The Politics and Anti-Politics of NGOs

Semester and Year SP 2014
Course Number ELEC-GG2765
Section 001
Instructor Gianpaolo Baiocchi
Days Mon
Time 6:20 PM - 9:00 PM
Units 4.0
Level G
Foundation Requirement


Same as SOC-GA 3442. Open to advanced undergraduates with permission of the instructor (gb97@nyu.edu).


Over the last two decades Non-Governmental Organizations, or NGOs, have played an increasingly active and visible role in international aid, disaster relief, development, post-conflict rebuilding, and local governance. They have received increasing amounts of aid and development dollars, in many cases supplanting more traditional actors, like governments. They have thus provided fodder for exciting and contentious academic and public debates marked by extreme positions: Are NGOs the solution to some of the world’s most difficult problems, or are they trojan horses for neoliberal reforms? Do they represent a form of global civil society, or simply a circulation of elites? This course steps back and offers a broader perspective, by introducing students to the critical analysis of non-governmental organizations and their role in shaping global institutions and domestic political and social change. It locates NGOs within the web of transnational assemblages that they operate in, and pays attention to the experiences and practices of “local” populations that fall in and out of the category of “client.” We draw from a range of literatures to inform our analysis: democratic theory around citizenship and civil society; theories of the state; critical studies of development; and analyses of social movements, institutions and global networks. We focus on a few emblematic cases of transnational NGOs and their consequences, including Human Rights, Fair Trade, and alter-globalization NGOs.

Course Type

Graduate Electives (ELEC-GG)

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