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The power to do good : post-revolution, NGO society, and the emergence of NGO-elites in contemporary Nicaragua

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TesisMattsson, Anna. The power to do good : post-revolution, NGO society, and the emergence of NGO-elites in contemporary Nicaragua. Ed. Lund : Lunds universitet  : 2007 208 sp. (Lund monographs in social anthropology, 1101-9948 ; 19) 978-91-7267-251-2
Tesis doctorales. Lunds universitet.  Sociologiska institutionen. 2008. Palabras claves:
Desarrollo, Cooperación
Siglo XXI


This thesis critically examines the world of NGOs in contemporary Nicaragua, and suggests connections between the current development 'boom' and the emergence of a materially privileged local development elite, which by means of its cultural and economic capital are in a position to exiercise considerable power in relation to other less powerful strata of the population. It is based on fieldwork conducted in Ocotal, Nicaragua, from June 2000 to April 2003. Analysed from a centre - periphery perspective power relations of the development system become discernable in how behaviour and expression of NGO actors change, and how identity is formed and reproduced, as actors move between different spaces of the system that constitute their arena. The thesis underlines the economic reality and the existential conditions in the arena in which many Nicaraguan NGOs operate, and shows that economic aspects - including personal profit - become a substantial motivational force that drives organisations that are nonprofit. Those economic forces are in Nicaraguan NGOs continuously merged with more idealistic and voluntary elements that are strongly configured by the revolutionary antecedents to the current development boom that is said to be occuring. The dissertation thus explores an ambivalent combination of professionalism and commitment that is expressed among individuals who work with NGOs in contemporary Nicaragua. The idealisation of NGOs, and their different projects, contribute to the creation of an assumption that they are 'doing good', which is rarely contested in Nicaragua. This accounts for the hegemonic power of the discourse of development as well as the dominant position of people who work in development projects; NGOs and the discourse of development that is expressed by the latter is becoming the naturalised 'best order' of the world, and the position of its carriers is rarely contested.

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