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Accepted Paper:

Activists and civil society as mediating categories  
David Gellner (University of Oxford)

Paper long abstract:

In many of the contexts in which anthropologists work today they encounter NGOs and activists, often depending on them to gain access to the field. Such activists are, so to speak, the prophets of the cargo cult of modernity. They attempt both to embody a particular vision of modernity and to bring it into existence. Political contexts make a big difference to the degree of freedom they enjoy; political crises represent both threats and opportunities for them. The concepts of civil society and the Third Sector are not anthropological in origin, but ethnographic studies offer the most interesting and original ways of thinking about what are in many countries relatively new and emergent organizational realities. Using examples from Nepal, where social and political transformations have been particularly rapid, I intend to consider activism and civil society as intermediate categories that help us to conceptualize a whole range of phenomena.

Panel W007
Intermediate categories
  Session 1