Civil Relations? Ethnographies of the Social Life of Civil Society
Date: Friday, 8th July 2011, 09:00-17:15
Location: Daryll Forde Seminar Room, Department of Anthropology, UCL, 14 Taviton Street, London.
With debates over the nature and role of the ‘Big Society’ raging in current British politics the function of organisations that mediate within and between state and society are again centre-stage. But what do we know about how these groups and organisations actually work?
‘Civil society organisations’ have often been turned to
by policy makers and others in the belief that they are
‘closer’ to the people they work with, are nimbler and more responsive to
changing situations, and frequently assert
a commitment to social equality and respect for others in their work.
Yet these organisations are also part of the same society and social
world as the
people they work
with, and subject to similar structural pressures and
demands. What does this mean for the way in which they work? How are social
relations in these organisations internally and externally
produced? In what way are the social structures of the societies in which
they work reflected and
reproduced through their work and in their internal structures? Do
they reflect race,
class, gender and
caste identities of
wider society? How are these identities negotiated and deployed in the
day-to-day and formal work of different kinds of civil society organisation? These
dilemmas could be reflected in something as simple as who gets to speak
in particular meetings,
to the negotiation of knowledge in reports, and policy outputs. This
workshop will examine
the ‘social life’ of civil society organisations, broadly
- How are social relations ordered and negotiated within civil society organisations (CSOs) and with those they work with?
- In particular, how are identities, social norms and hierarchies brought to the fore, or backgrounded in these organisations, and in what context? How may these may be enforced or resisted?
- How are these identities and hierarchies managed?
- In what way does this shape the engagement of these organisations their different publics?
- How is the experience of working in and for civil society organisations squared with institutional ideas about their purpose?