Unexpected Power: Conflict and Change Among Transnational Activists

Overview

U.S. human rights advocacy has long focused on civil and political rights-issues such as torture, censorship, and lack of democratic freedoms abroad. In the 1990s a series of high-profile anti-sweatshop and fair-trade campaigns shifted the spotlight to labor issues. But as human rights activists in the United States and elsewhere take up the cause of economic exploitation, they don't always agree on the nature of the problem, or on what should be done to address it. What is more, they do not necessarily have the ...

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Overview

U.S. human rights advocacy has long focused on civil and political rights-issues such as torture, censorship, and lack of democratic freedoms abroad. In the 1990s a series of high-profile anti-sweatshop and fair-trade campaigns shifted the spotlight to labor issues. But as human rights activists in the United States and elsewhere take up the cause of economic exploitation, they don't always agree on the nature of the problem, or on what should be done to address it. What is more, they do not necessarily have the final say: in many cases, the focus of a campaign will shift when local activists make their voices heard or when the imported aims of nongovernmental organizations conflict with the goals of the people they intend to help. Shareen Hertel explores the dramatic negotiations within cross-border human rights campaigns. Activists on the receiving end of such campaigns do much more than seek the help of powerful allies beyond their borders. They often also challenge outsiders' understandings of basic human rights-in some cases, directly (by "blocking" campaigns intended to help them) and in other cases, indirectly (by employing "backdoor moves" aimed at more subtly introducing new human rights norms). Hertel looks closely at struggles for human rights in two contexts: Bangladesh, where activists challenged the understanding of human rights central to an international campaign to prevent child labor in that country, and Mexico, where activists sought to broaden the scope of efforts to prevent discrimination against pregnant workers in their country. Hertel connects these unexpected challenges to a new wave of international advocacy, and thereby illuminates democratic struggles in the new global economy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In her analysis of transnational advocacy campaigns around labor and economic rights within the broader human rights advocacy frame-work, Shareen Hertel emphasizes the ability of activists within countries and their transnational allies to impact and even shift the agendas of the campaigns. Hertel uses two high profile transnational advocacy campaigns to expand our understanding of the mechanisms in the evolution of norms and framing of human rights claims within such campaigns. Delivering a multifaceted explanation of the genesis and evolution of both campaigns, Hertel synthesizes rationalist, structural, and social movement analyses. Drawing upon Jonathan Fox's work, Hertel evaluates the effects of both campaigns with almost a decade's distance. In the end, she draws the conclusion that blocking produces more significant changes than backdoor movements."—Christine Elizabeth Petit, University of California, Riverside, Mobilization

"Unexpected Power is a signal contribution to the growing body of social-science literature on international policy 'campaigns' and the dynamics of exchange among activist organizations in the developed and developing countries of the new landscape of globalization. Shareen Hertel has compiled a rich store of primary interviews with important actors on all sides and woven relevant documentary sources throughout the book."—Lance Compa, author of Unfair Advantage

"Much has been written about transnational activism and the global human rights movement, about the gathering forces in the streets of Seattle or Washington, and the emergence of ideas from seminars and advocacy groups in industrialized nations. This marvelous little book simultaneously summarizes and breaks from that tradition. It is the first subaltern study of the global human and labor rights movement. Ideas mooted in the North often meet with resistance from the alleged beneficiaries in the South. With pointed case studies from Bangladesh and Mexico, Hertel illustrates the importance of listening to these often-muffled voices from the Third World about how to fight child labor, gender discrimination, and other vital matters concerning economic and more generally human rights. Combining erudition with grassroots realism, this is a book that deserves to be read by scholars and activists alike."—Kaushik Basu, Carl Marks Professor of International Studies and Professor of Economics, Cornell University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801445071
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2006
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Ch. 1 New dynamics in transnational advocacy : an introduction 1
Ch. 2 Conflict and change within advocacy networks : theoretical underpinnings 14
Ch. 3 Child labor, child rights, and transnational advocacy : the case of Bangladesh 31
Ch. 4 Discrimination, the right to work, and reproductive freedom : the case of Mexico 55
Ch. 5 A decade later : assessing advocacy's effects over time 86
Ch. 6 Conclusion 107
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