Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Volume 4, Issue 2
spring 2014
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Craig Canfield
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

Review of Theorizing NGOs: States, Feminisms, and Neoliberalisms

by Maya Binyam, ‘15


NGOs are the illusory seams of a contemporary feminist fabric. So posits Theorizing NGOs: States, Feminisms, and Neoliberalisms, the newest project of Professors Victoria Bernal and Inderpal Grewal. In the concluding chapter of this dynamic collection of essays, the pair write: "The NGO form is powerful because it easily serves as an intermediary, a bridge, and/or a translation across scales and forms, between levels of institutionalization, and between wider publics [...] and the political inside represented by state authorities and formal institutions." If the NGO is a bridge, or a network of bridges, this collection operates within the cracks of its construction; in an act of multi-disciplinary collaboration, editors Bernal and Grewal interrogate moments of imperfect translation, exploring the incommunicable protractions between seemingly divergent interests: state/non-state, governmental/grassroots, neo-liberal/liberal. Theorizing NGOs facilitates a cross-disciplinary, transnational conversation on the pitfalls and potentiality of 'NGOization', subsequently cleaving an apparently homogenous organizational field. Seamless communication is exposed for its impossibility: contributors alternatingly converge and diverge in their understandings of feminisms and gendered subjects (re)produced by NGOs. This continuous cleavage (slicing, rejoining, slicing again) is the means by which the book's transformative potential is fashioned. There's a sense of emergency in these ruptured representations of feminism, a halting partiality: reading requires uncertainty - a wavering back and forth and in between. Bernal and Grewal, along with their brilliantly provoking contributors, teach the tools of patchwork - the value of a threadbare quilt.

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