Refusing the Development NGO? Departure, Dismissal, and Misrecognition in Angolan Development Interventions
- Anthropological Quarterly
- George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research
- Volume 92, Number 1, Winter 2019
- pp. 203-229
- Additional Information
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working in international development increasingly follow a neoliberalized management model, hiring professional employees to conduct the work of social transformation under a bureaucratic regime that sees the recruitment and retention of staff members as rational transactions between employer and employee. Such managerialist thinking holds that staff members represent bundles of skills and knowledge to be sorted and allocated according to the requirements of work, that they seek to exchange their labor for payment, and that they may justifiably be fired for misdeeds like misuse of materials, misrepresenting themselves, or poor work quality, as determined by the institution. I use the example of local staff members resigning and being fired from an international democratization intervention in postwar Angola to argue that some development professionals refuse to occupy such management-defined subject positions, asserting instead their independent moralities about the place of implementation staff in international development work. A central concern for these local staff is their presumed inferiority to international staff, a dichotomy increasingly mapped onto that of implementation vs. administration staff rather than local vs. international in the larger development industry. Development NGOs here misrecognize the resignations and firings of implementation staff as personal decisions or failures rather than as responses to structural inequalities within the industry, leaving intact unequal relations of power within the very profession meant to combat inequality on a global scale.