Women’s activism has assumed an international dimension beginning in the nineteenth century. Transnational feminism has been shaped by debates over a wide range of issues: how to name and describe feminist inspired action that crosses national borders; how to create organizations, networks, and movements that acknowledge the multiple power differentials that exist among women while still allowing for concerted political action; and how to craft effective mobilization strategies in the face of highly differing forms of activism. These debates have fueled a surge in scholarly interest in the transnational activities of feminist groups, transforming the ways in which women’s studies, political science, international relations, sociology, and geography investigate the relationships between national and international levels of politics. The scholarship on transnational feminist actions has been influenced in large part by the concept of transnational advocacy networks/transnational feminist networks, which often bring together multiple kinds of actors such as social movements, international nongovernmental organizations, and more nationally or locally based actors. Another issue tackled by scholars who are politically committed to the goals of transnational feminist activism is how feminists are likely to achieve their goals and produce change through their transnational activities. These scholars can be expected to continue to develop their own research agendas on transnational feminist activism and to influence how transnational politics and globalization are studied in other fields.
Melinda Adams and Gwynn Thomas
A network may refer to “a group of interdependent actors and the relationships among them,” or to a set of nodes linked by a web of interdependencies. The concept of networks has its origins in earlier philosophical and sociological ideas such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “general will” and Émile Durkheim’s “social facts”, which adressed social and political communities and how decisions are mediated and ideas are structured within them. Networks encompass a wide range of theoretical interpretations and critical applications across different disciplines, including governance networks, policy networks, public administration networks, social movement networks, intergovernmental networks, social networks, trade networks, computer networks, information networks, and neural networks. Governance networks have been proposed as alternative pluricentric governance models representing a new form of negotiated governance based on interdependence, negotiation and trust. Such networks differ from the competitive market regulation and state hierarchical control in three aspects: the relationship between the actors, decision-making processes, and compliance. The decision-making processes within governance networks are founded on a reflexive rationality rather than the “procedural rationality” which characterizes the competitive market regulation and the “substantial rationality” which underpins authoritative state regulation. Network theory has proved especially useful for scholars in positing the existence of loosely defined and informal webs of experts or advocates that can have a real and substantial influence on international relations discourse and policy. Two examples of the use of network theory in action are transnational advocacy networks and epistemic communities.
Hans Peter Schmitz
Transnational human rights networks refer to a form of cross-border collective action that seeks to promote compliance with universally accepted norms. Principled transnational activism began to draw sustained scholarly attention after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the creation of a new type of information-driven and impartial transnational activism, embodied in organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Scholarship on transnational human rights networks emerged during the 1990s within the subfield of International Relations and as a challenge to the state-centric and materialist bias of the field. In their 1998 book Activists beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics, Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink describe the key role that transnational human rights groups play in global affairs. Focusing on rights-based activism, Keck and Sikkink show how transnational advocacy networks (TANs) can influence domestic politics. The concept of TANs is dominated by the purposeful activism of nongovernmental organizations and driven by shared principles, not professional standards. A number of studies have challenged the core assumptions about the effectiveness of principled human rights activism, arguing that international support plays no significant role compared to the autonomous efforts of domestic activists. One way to overcome these challenges and criticisms is for the transnational activist sector, as well as other types of non-state actors, to move beyond the principles/interests dichotomy and take a closer look at the internal dynamics of participant NGOs.
Janet Elise Johnson
Violence against women represents the most popular gender related issue for global women’s activists, international development agencies, and human rights advocates. Although state responsiveness to violence against women was previously seen by feminist political scientists as only a domestic issue, international studies scholars have begun to theorize how states’ responsiveness is shaped by foreign interventions by global actors. As countries around the world began to adopt new policies opposing violence against women, social scientists adept in both feminist theory and social science methods began the comparative study of these reforms. These studies pointed to the importance of the ideological and institutional context as structural impediments or opportunities as well as suggested the more effective strategic alliances between activists, politicians, and civil servants. Those studies that attempt a deeper analysis rely upon indirect measures of effectiveness of policies and interventions, such as judging policy on how feminist it is and judging reforms based on the recognition of the relationship between violence against women and gender based hierarchies. Through these measures, feminist social scientists can estimate the response’s impact on the sex–gender system, and indirectly on violence against women, which is seen to be a result of the sex–gender system. The next challenge is differentiating between the various types of intervention and their different impacts. These various types of intervention include the “blame and shame,” in which activists hold countries up against standards; bilateral or transnational networking among activists; the widespread availability of international funding; and traditional diplomacy or warfare.
Cristian A. Harris
Lands of recent settlement refers to countries settled predominantly by European migration during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as the United States, Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, Australia, and New Zealand. Current scholarship on the lands of recent settlement reveals a very active agenda of comparative studies covering a broad range of areas and issues: culture, institutions, gender, ethnicity, labor, national identity, geography, ecology, environment, noneconomic factors of growth, and transnationalization and globalization. In explaining the different levels of development between lands of recent settlement and the rest of the world, traditional explanations pointed to propitious external factors and factor endowments. These explanations include the analysis of the history of the United States based on the notion of “frontier development” and the staple theory of growth. Meanwhile, recent works debate whether institutions, culture, or geography plays a crucial role. These works focus on the social, domestic, geographic, and biological elements of development, the cultural and institutional legacy of colonialism, as well as questions on gender, ethnic, and national identity. Although they do not reject the importance of foreign demand, capital, and labor in explaining the development of the lands of recent settlement, they question the adequacy of interpretations based solely on economic factors. Ultimately, the most important contribution of the study of development of lands of recent settlement is in the area of an analysis of transnational networks and globalization.