PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review

Mediating Dilemmas: Local NGOs and Rural Development in Neoliberal Mexico

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Abstract

Analysis of the role of NGOs as mediators of change may yield important theoretical insights into the processes by which neoliberalizing projects become embedded in and consequently transformed by specific settings. In recent decades, NGOs have played an important role in mediating intertwined and often contradictory processes of political and economic liberalization in countries around the globe. However, changes to the political context in which NGOs work have altered the nature of the interventions these groups make. This article examines how members of a Mexican NGO community centered in the provincial city of Tulancingo, Hidalgo, rework cultural idioms of mediation to position themselves as legitimate intermediaries linking rural cooperatives, state officials, international donors, and global activist networks. Their strategies for confronting their own entrapment in processes of structural reform illuminate the constraints faced by Southern activists in negotiating possibilities for social change after the Washington Consensus. They also underline the importance of renewed attention to the role of intermediaries in enabling and enacting structural change.

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