Samantha Day

Thesis title:

Forest Conservation NGOs performing Legitimation: a discourse analysis


Forest conservation Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) have significantly increased their role on the global stage, filling diverse roles from consultants, representatives and service delivery. This prominence, as well as some scandals in the NGO sector at large, has prompted much scholarly and public scrutiny for how they are held accountable, or are legitimised, for the power they wield, particularly in fragile areas and amongst marginalised people groups. Although some NGO literature looks at relationships with stakeholders and consequences to legitimacy for NGOs, a study of how NGOs perform legitimacy by shaping their identities through discourse within these complex and shifting relationships is understudied. This is particular relevant to questions of how NGOs are conceptualised, which remains ambiguous, particular as boundaries with the public and private sectors advance and recede over time. I approach the subject of NGO legitimacy and power relationships through the lens of Foucault. Legitimation is said to mostly be performed through discourse. By employing Foucault’s ideas, I will explore how NGOs use discursive practices to rationalise their identities and roles in forests, and where these discourses over time, reveal or hide power relationships. These conceptualisations, or shared understandings, are contextualised within the dynamic, complex, and conflicting power relationships in forests in the Global South, as well as the shifting paradigms in forest conservation approaches.

My main research questions are as follows:

How does NGO perform legitimation through discourse?

How does an NGOs performance of legitimation reveal or hide power relationships in the forest?

My methodology in answering these questions will be through the lens of Foucauldian discourse analysis looking at archival documents from the past 25-years, interviews and an event, situated in the Global South.

Social media:

Twitter: @samanthacjday

First supervisor:

Sarah Bracking

CASE partner:

non-HEI partner in master spreadsheet


9- Political Ecology, Energy & Environmental Health