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Curating Sovereignty in Palestine


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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.


Social Science and Public Policy


Lectures and Seminars



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Parents and Families


Students, Graduate and Professional

Students, Prospective

Students, Undergraduate




MAX-Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs, MAX-Political Science


Nicholas Feeley


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Exterior of Maxwell in black and white when there was no Eggers building

We’re Turning 100!

To mark our centennial in the fall of 2024, the Maxwell School will hold special events and engagement opportunities to celebrate the many ways—across disciplines and borders—our community ever strives to, as the Oath says, “transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”

Throughout the year leading up to the centennial, engagement opportunities will be held for our diverse, highly accomplished community that now boasts more than 38,500 alumni across the globe.