Julie Macken | Journal of Sociology
This paper argues that NGOisation is a structural factor that fundamentally altered the field of feminist activism in Serbia during the 1990s so that new members of NGOs faced established hierarchies that favoured the older generation. Drawing on 14 in-depth interviews with young Serbian feminists from five key organisations, I conducted a narrative analysis that unearthed three main viewpoints. First, there is a perception that NGOisation makes “failing solidarity” possible – in relation both to other organisations and to younger members of the same NGO – but does not prescribe it. The ultimate culprit is therefore seen to be the older generation and leads to self-exclusion from activism, or at least a partial withdrawal. The second viewpoint takes a more understanding stance. The older generation’s unwillingness to give younger feminists more space is regarded not as a choice but as a logical outcome of NGOisation. These younger feminists are neither disappointed nor angry, but they draw the conclusion that feminist activism needs to change. They therefore turn to a grassroots festival that gives them the sense of equality and ownership they need. Finally, there are also young feminists for whom neither NGOisation nor the generational divide are an issue. Their narrative suggests that there can be an absence of divisions as long as young feminists embrace the role of learners who strictly follow the line of their leader. Overall, this research shows the contribution NGOisation theory can make to generational analysis. It further highlights for the first time that generational divides exist within Serbian activism, but that they are not necessarily connected to NGOisation, and that there are also alternatives.