Backlash: Resistance and Defiance to International Norms



Date and Time

March 9, 2017 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM


Open to the public.

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Encina Hall, 2nd floor

Abstract: This paper develops a theoretical approach to norm resistance and defiance in international affairs. Conventional models of norm dynamics (e.g. Finnemore and Sikkink’s “norm life-cycle”, Keck and Sikkink’s “boomerang model”; Risse, Ropp and Sikkink’s “spiral model”) focus mainly on diffusion and compliance, failing to account for resistance to global norms. I argue that transnational advocacy and pressure can backfire, resulting in further violations, the promotion of counter-norms, and repression of civil society. Drawing from social psychology, sociology, and criminology, the paper presents an alternative model of norm socialization, whereby attempts to “shame” states provoke defiance, or the increase in incidence or commitment to a particular norm offending behavior by a shamed regime, caused by a proud, shameless reaction against the shaming agent. Defiance unfolds through domestic and international logics that incentivize elites to violate international norms for political gain. In the long term, defiance can attach oppositional norms to collective identity, transforming domestic and international normative orders. I apply the theoretical framework to an empirical case study of the sexuality rights norm and its contestation by Uganda, Nigeria, and Russia.

About the speaker: Rochelle Terman is a political scientist (Ph.D., University of California Berkeley, 2016) studying international norms and identity using computational and mixed methods. Her dissertation / book project examines the backlash and unintended consequences of international “naming and shaming” campaigns, especially around women’s rights in the Muslim World. Previous work on the tension between Islamophobia and feminism was recently published in Theory, Culture & Society. She teaches computational social science in a variety of capacities.

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