NGO Narratives in the Global Public Sphere

By Erin Kamler.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

NGOs are broadly characterized as beneficent civil society actors who affirm universal values (Castells, 2008) and operationalize humanitarian interventions that governments fail to achieve. Due to their increasing prominence in international relations, scholars, policy makers and publics should attempt to understand how and where these institutions are situated in the global public sphere. While some NGOs work closely with governments to achieve social change, others operate outside the purview of the state, and their methodologies differ vastly according to their cultural frameworks. NGOs also communicate differently according to their institutional needs and self-interests. The divergent aspects of the way NGOs operate and communicate point to a need to view NGOs critically, through three categorical lenses: as representing state interests, cultural interests, and institutional interests. Where do these representational categories overlap and intersect? How are they manifested in NGOs’ communication processes? In this paper, I will draw on aspects of globalization, rhetoric, dramatism and narrative theories to show how NGO framing mechanisms situate these actors within the global public sphere. I will use an international anti-trafficking NGO operating in Thailand and Cambodia as a case study, examining how their self-representation communicates aspects of state, cultural and institutional interests. Finally, I will begin developing a framework for viewing NGOs as public diplomacy actors.

Keywords: NGOs, Globalization, Public Diplomacy, Rhetoric, Dramatism, Thailand, Cambodia

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp.75-86. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 981.556KB).

Erin Kamler

Doctoral Student, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Erin Kamler is a doctoral student at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, where she studies public diplomacy and human rights discourses in Southeast Asia. She has conducted research on anti-trafficking NGOs in Thailand and Cambodia in partnership with the U.S. Department of State, published in academic journals in India and Thailand and participated in conferences around the world. An award-winning composer, musician and playwright, Ms. Kamler earned a BA in Music Composition from Sarah Lawrence College and a MPD in Public Diplomacy from USC. She has lived, worked and studied in Thailand, and speaks conversational Thai.

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