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Social Science and Public Policy

Catherine Herrold: Curating Sovereignty in Palestine

February 4, 2022 at 12:00pm1:30pm EST

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Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs

Comparative Politics / International Relations


Catherine Herrold

Associate Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs

Syracuse University

Curating Sovereignty in Palestine: Voluntary Grassroots Organizations and Civil Society in the West Bank and East Jerusalem


This presentation extends work on “NGO-ization” in the Middle East and Global South to examine “voluntary grassroots organizations (VGOs)”: groups that operate on a voluntary basis and position themselves outside of the formal NGO sector and foreign aid system. Based on nine months of ethnographic research in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, I examine how VGOs use heritage practices as a two-pronged challenge to the NGO-ization of Palestinian civil society. Whereas NGO-ization depoliticized civil society, VGOs resist depoliticization by mobilizing Palestinians to resist the Israeli occupation. And whereas NGO-ization professionalized civil society, VGOs resist professionalization by building large volunteer bases, emphasizing long-term processes of citizen mobilization rather than short-term outcomes, and remaining grounded in local communities and accountable to local citizens. Their work reflects trends around the world in which civic actors turn to informal organizing in an era of growing disenchantment with traditional NGOs.

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This event was published on January 18, 2022.

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