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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Is the Personal Political? The Development of Armenia's NGO Sector During the Post-Soviet Period


This paper examines the growth of the NGO (non-governmental organization) sector in Armenia in the 1990s and the impact of Western aid on its development. Armenian NGOs, in the post-Soviet period, continue to rely heavily on Western financial support. Consequently, donors determine the types of projects that are implemented, the types of issues that are addressed, how those issues are addressed (methods and solutions), and how those issues are discussed (language and discourse). Following the issue of domestic violence in Armenia’s NGO sector, this paper shows how NGO-donor relationships shape knowledge-production, information-circulation, and decision-making. The paper also argues that although Armenian NGOs are recipients of ideas, goods, and capital associated with global civil society, they are not passive consumers who accept these imports automatically and in their “pure” form. Instead, local NGO members interpret, criticize, and customize the global to the local, and they adapt projects to meet local needs.

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