Clashing activisms: International human rights organizations and unruly politics
until further notice
SourceJournal of Human Rights Practice, 7, 3, (2015), pp. 343-365
18 januari 2016
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ RSCR CAOS
Journal of Human Rights Practice
SubjectAnthropology and Development Studies
In this article we address the complex relation between international human rights organizations and unruly activism. We take the Pussy Riot case as a point of departure to illustrate that the institutionalized methods of international human rights organizations can clash with the more radical agenda and action repertoires of unruly groups and movements. These new forms of civic engagement are situated in a larger context of discontent with globalizing economic and political forces and some broader challenges for human rights. We analyse these unconventional and sometimes violent activisms through a lens of unruly politics, arguing that they denote a fundamental shift in the type of engagement we know of traditional NGOs. We discuss how such activisms pose a particular challenge for international human rights organizations, which can be seen as too hierarchal, elitist, moderate and with too minimalist an agenda to achieve the desired system change. Unruly politics differ from the institutionalized politics of human rights organizations with regard to their understanding of social change, their modes of organization, and their action repertoires. We conclude the article by arguing that the new civic politics with an unruly character and the more traditional human rights advocacy are both valuable and do not need to be reconciled. We sketch three possible ways that international human rights organizations can remain relevant by playing roles which are different from, but complementary to, those of unruly agents, claiming that antagonism can even be fruitful for a process of progressive social change.
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