Publication Date

Winter 12-11-2016


This dissertation is a critical examination of the increasingly intimate relationship between the neoliberal state, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and their constituents through the lens of NGO-produced advocacy for “binational same sex couples” in the United States. I analyze how neoliberal political and economic ideologies are reconfiguring the role of NGOs, entities traditionally understood as outside state power, as well as the aspirations of their constituencies, within the United States. In particular, I interrogate how NGOs are an increasingly important site in the (re)production of normative gay and lesbian subjects, and illustrate how LGBTQ-identified individuals negotiate these conditions as they seek to secure certain rights and protections for themselves. This project tracks the discursive production of the binational same sex couple. I analyze the role of NGOs in this process, and show how the binational same sex partner was constructed as a subject through intersecting norms about sexuality, gender, race, class, nationality, and immigration status. In doing so, NGO advocacy efforts worked to include certain lesbian and gay citizens without interrupting the racialized dividing processes inherent in the regulation of immigration and citizenship. Further, I also draw on ethnographic research with individuals in relationships considered binational same sex to demonstrate how various individuals were able to tap into the discursive strategies and spaces made available by NGOs to form themselves as subjects and articulate their own demands on the state; even when they had critiques of these strategies and spaces, or when their own histories, relationships, and identities exceeded the normative bounds of NGO discourse. Participants often described an ambivalent attachment to NGO advocacy efforts, and I argue that this ambivalence makes visible how NGOs’ commitment to neoliberal politics of recognition can structure and shape individual agency.


anthropology, queer, NGO, advocacy, LGBT, immigration

Document Type




Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Anthropology

First Committee Member (Chair)

Louise Lamphere

Second Committee Member

Les Field

Third Committee Member

Ronda Brulotte

Fourth Committee Member

Amy L. Brandzel

Fifth Committee Member

Karma R. Chávez