Identity construction and felt-accountability of Palestinian and Israeli human rights activists : the case of the Gaza Strip
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This study critically explores the relationship between identity construction and felt-accountability amongst human rights activists working in Palestinian and Israeli advocacy NGOs from a postcolonial perspective. Prior accounting research in NGOs has prioritised the relational and functional accountability of NGOs over individual accountability of their members. Moreover, advocacy NGOs have not received similar attention compared with development and welfare NGOs. This thesis addresses the new construct of felt-accountability using Postcolonial Theory to explore the impact of postcolonial identity on activists' professional identity vis-à-vis felt-accountability. For this purpose, I conducted 25 semi-structured interviews with 14 Palestinian activists working in Palestinian advocacy NGOs and 11 Israeli activists working in Israeli advocacy NGOs, of whom seven activists introduce themselves as Palestinians despite their Israeli citizenship. I adopted the critical discourse analysis using Fairclough's dialectical-relational approach to analyse the interviews narratives at the three-level analysis (Textual, Discursive and Social). The study provides theoretical and empirical insights about the construction of a postcolonial identity by activists. It reveals that activists engage in identity work and adopt multiple tactics to manage their postcolonial and professional identities, which influences their enactment of felt-accountability. The study suggests felt-accountability as a by-product of identity that has an affirmative role in affirming the authentic identity of the colonised and their representation of the Self. This reciprocal impact has resulted in distinctive forms of felt-accountability, as well as several noticeable limitations and dark sides. It also explains how felt-accountability is perceived at individual and collective levels. Contrary to prior research in the field, this study reveals that felt-accountability, which is discursive and reflexive in nature, does not necessarily match the imposed accountability of advocacy NGOs. As a result, activists find themselves in conversations of accountability with their NGOs in which they exchange their power relations to settle the two accountabilities. This study has several contributions drawing attention to the significance of identity in shaping felt-accountability, which NGOs and their funders should consider when accountability is in demand. It reveals the emancipatory potentials of felt-accountability associated with innovation, creativity, and commitment, hence assisting advocacy NGOs in pursuing their objectives and protecting their victims. The study encourages future research to focus more explicitly on how other identities, e.g. gender in NGOs, could facilitate the development of specific types of accountability in different organisational settings, e.g. social movements, and how felt-accountability could enable organisational members to change their current identity positions.