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Civil Society Elites: New Perspectives on Civil Society in Cambodia and Indonesia

Funded by the Swedish Research Council, Development Research, 2018-2020

This project challenges a narrow understanding of civil society as primarily consisting of formal NGOs and aims at exploring processes of elite formation within civil society and how civil society elites interact with other elites. It does so through in-depth case studies of civil society organizations and networks in two Southeast Asian countries with very different trajectories in terms of civil society development: Cambodia and Indonesia. Cases include organizations that are heavily dependent on foreign funding as well as networks and movements that have no or little exposure to development aid. Within an overarching framework of field theory, within-case analysis and cross-case comparisons will lead to the identification of different forms of elite formation and interaction. Data will be obtained through semi-structured and biographical interviews, observations, and document analyses. The three year project brings together researchers from Sweden, Cambodia and Indonesia. It combines civil society research and elite theory in a way that has not been done before and can therefore enrich both research fields. The findings will be significant not only for researchers, but also for development practitioners and civil society activists because studies of civil society elites will have implications for how to view the role of civil society actors in fighting poverty and promoting democracy.


Researchers in the project

Anders Uhlin, project leader

Astrid Norén-Nilsson, Centre for East and Southeast Asian Studies, Lund University

Netra Eng, Cambodia

Purwo Santoso, Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia

Amalinda Savirani, Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia