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Genealogies of Intersectionality in International Relations  

Celeste Montoya and Kimberly Killen

The term intersectionality was introduced in the late 1980s by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a U.S. legal scholar critiquing single-axis approaches (i.e., race only or gender only) to oppression that often obscure those residing at the intersection of multiple marginalities and preclude them from justice. Since then, intersectionality has become a burgeoning field of study aimed at exploring and addressing the complexity of multiple and intersecting dimensions of power and oppression. While scholars across a range of disciplines have engaged intersectionality and incorporated intersectional analysis into their work, its explicit application and study in international relations (IR) has been somewhat limited. While intersectionality, named as such, may be less common in IR, postcolonial, Third World, transnational, Islamic, and queer feminist scholars and activists have long sought to complicate traditional understandings of power. Identifying and tracing the genealogical strands of their intersectional thinking and interventions help demonstrate the relevance and potential of intersectionality for the study of IR.


Globalization and Human Rights  

Tony Evans and Alex Kirkup

The literature on the relationship between globalization and human rights has laid out three responses to the economic, political, and social transformations of globalization within the human rights. First, some scholars consider globalization as complementary to the progressive realization of universal human rights on a global scale. They cite the extension and deepening of the formal human rights regime through international institutions and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the emergence of new private, corporate forms of authority. Second, others perceive of globalization as creating substantial challenges for the realization of universal human rights on a global scale. Such scholars are engaged in criticism of the existing institutional arrangements of the formal human rights regime. They highlight the way in which human rights act as a form of power over people, especially where different ways of life are brought into contact and conflict through transformations associated with globalization. Furthermore, they reject the idea of the progressive realization of human rights as some form of an inevitable unfolding of history or as a singularly desired end point, and instead acknowledge conflicting conceptions of rights as expressions of social struggle A third group of scholars are engaged in the critique of the conception and function of human rights within globalization. From this viewpoint, globalization reveals that ideas of universal and indivisible human rights, along with their progressive realization, are flawed and need to be replaced by more substantive concepts. The critiques stem from the perspectives of neo-Marxism, postpositivism, feminism, and cultural relativism.


Feminist Perspectives on Human Rights  

Laura Parisi

Feminism has provided some new perspectives to the discourse on human rights over the years. Contemporary feminist scholarship has sought to critique the liberalism on which the conception of formal “equality” in the international human rights laws has been derived on a number of grounds. Two of the most pertinent critiques for this discussion are: the androcentric construction of human rights; and the perpetuation of the false dichotomy between the public and private spheres. This exploration of the relationship between liberalism and women’s human rights constitutes a significant shift in which many feminists had realized that the emphasis on “sameness” with men was limited in its utility. This shift rejected the “sameness” principle of the liberal feminists and brought gender-specific abuses into the mainstream of human rights theory and practice. By gender mainstreaming international institutions and future human rights treaties, specific women’s rights could be defined as human rights more generally. Feminists have since extended their critique of androcentrism and the public–private dichotomy to the study of gender inequalities and economic globalization, which is an important systemic component of structural indivisibility. In particular, the broader women’s human rights movement has come to realize that civil-political liberties and socioeconomic rights are inextricable, though there is disagreement over the exact nature of this relationship.