Shwei, Shwei: Sustainable Development, Indigeneity and NGO Politics in a Bedouin Village

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Amity Doolittle
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This paper presents a case study of the NGO Bustan, which does sustainable development work in the Bedouin village Qasr A-Sir, in the Negev Desert of Israel. Tracing the history of the NGO, the paper interrogates the shifting discourses that the NGO employs to frame its work. Through this analysis, the paper ultimately concludes that Bustan’s work disempowers the community it seeks to help in a variety of ways, despite its good intentions. The first part of the paper analyzes Bustan’s shift from an environmental justice to a sustainable development framework, arguing that this shift contributed to the de-politicization of the NGO’s work. The second section asks how Bustan’s increasing engagement with social entrepreneurship impacts the ability of the NGO to “do good,” in particular noting the ways that the advertising demands of the market cause the NGO to use the same orientalist discourse it wants to end. The final section of the paper then analyzes Bustan’s engagement with the Bedouin as an indigenous people, in particular exploring the ways Bustan articulates discourses of indigeneity and environment to create a particular eco-indigenous discourse.