NGO legitimation as practice: crafting political space in Tanzania
Item statusRestricted access
Embargo end date09/07/2021
Dodworth, Catherine Jane
The traditional monopoly of politics and international relations on theorizing power, authority and legitimacy has eroded in the late modern era. The complexity of these domains has been compounded in a strongly interconnected, post-Westphalian world, where sovereignty and statehood are increasingly negotiated, where centres of power and authority have shifted and where new configurations of governance have come to the fore. The conventional conceptual toolbox of inter-national relations has been slow to adapt, and so the need to embrace insights from other disciplines never greater. The study of legitimacy in particular has been hamstrung by conventional drawings of both sovereignty and authority. Public authority, in the Weberian idealist sense, is the legitimated exercise of power. The study of power has broadened considerably in this timeframe; legitimacy, or rather the practice of legitimation, must mirror power’s analytical expansion. Even where the need to broaden our conceptualization of legitimation has been conceded, its empirical content has remained woefully thin. The question of how political actors legitimate their authority to act thus remains under-theorized and under-researched. This thesis contributes to contemporary debates regarding power, legitimation and authority in two key respects. The first is in theorizing legitimation as practice: the everyday ‘socially meaningful patterns of action’ (Adler & Pouliot 2011, p3) that render power authoritative. This practice-based approach, benefitting in particular from the legacies of Foucault and Bourdieu, moves firmly away from accounts of legitimacy as ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’ towards a more processual account. The second is in locating these everyday practices beyond formalized institutions, undertaken by a range of actors in a range of forums. The increasingly blurred ‘non-state’ operates in the margins between global and local; national/international; public/private and indeed state/non-state, whilst nonetheless sustaining a claim to publicness. These ‘twilight’ institutions (Lund 2006a) include the non-government organizations in Tanzania on which this thesis is focussed. It draws on extensive critical ethnography in locating everyday governmental and non-governmental legitimation practice, whilst linking the local to the global. This is not solely about facilitating the travel of international relations to its hitherto geographical and theoretical margins, but to return with rigour to the centrality of legitimation as experienced in ‘most of the world’ (Chatterjee 2004). It asks, in short, how NGOs, as non-state actors, legitimate their authority to act in the everyday, within today’s interconnected world.