Refereed journal article or data article (A1)

‘The spirits that we summoned’: A study on how the ‘governed’ make accounting their own in the context of market-making programs in Nepal

List of Authors: David Crvelin, Albrecht Becker

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd

Publication year: 2020

Journal: Accounting, Organizations and Society

Volume number: 81

Number of pages: 17

ISSN: 0361-3682

eISSN: 1873-6289



This paper presents an ethnography on the ways in which a large international NGO operating in Nepal mobilizes accounting in order to make operable a new market-based approach to development. Focusing on diverse groups of actors along the chain of translation, we show how it required unfolding experimentation to make accounting fit local contexts. Initially, these unfolding forms of using accounting constituted a particular strength in inscribing the ideals of the markets into the everyday doings of beneficiaries. However, we continue to explore the momentum created by the increasing levels of reflexivity on the side of ‘the governed’ that led to unforeseen discoveries in which also their personal hopes and desires, initially vague and abstract, can become translated into the NGO’s accounting designs. In so doing, accounting became locally reprogrammed into a host within which seemingly unrelated local ambitions matured into enforceable agendas - something which gradually eroded accounting’s thrust to govern along the NGO’s aspired market rationales. We built upon studies in governmentality and Michel de Certeau’s theory of everyday practice to conceptualize a form of resistance that is not outside accounting’s webs of power but emerges in the course of ‘consuming’ accounting locally. We demonstrate how this resistance through (rather than against) accounting left the NGO with little capacity to guard against the ways in which the project became used for different ends locally. Like Goethe’s sorcerer’s apprentice, the NGO’s managers did not get rid of the ’spirits that they summoned’ but became trapped in their own accounting and, at least in part, themselves subject to governance ‘from below’.

Last updated on 2021-24-06 at 08:13