Non-governmental organizations that promote human rights and social justice in domestic settings often serve as "translators" or intermediaries between transnational and local norms and practices. Conducting collaborative ethnography in these organizations entails particular dilemmas, opportunities, and challenges stemming from the ethnographer's entangled commitments. Based on five years of engaged fieldwork in an Israeli organization working for social and economic rights, this article takes up three major dilemmas. Acknowledging the importance of open dialogue in collaborative research, I ask how the anthropologist should nonetheless address unspoken, unquestioned, and hegemonic common sense assumptions of one's collaborators. This issue is demonstrated by analyzing the hegemonic nationalistic-Zionist aspects of the organization's work. I further explore the ethnographer's role in challenging underlying discourses and practices in the field by discussing my reaction to the prevailing separation in the organization between different sets of rights as well as between rights in Israel and rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Lastly, I examine how the organization's role as mediator between its clients and the state affected its patterns of protest and the implications of this for engaged research. The article illuminates the challenges embedded in conducting politically engaged ethnography in a depoliticized setting.


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pp. 149-183
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