Transnational social movements are defined as movements wherein members in at least two nations cooperatively engage in efforts to promote or resist change beyond the bounds of their nation. Over the last 20 years, research on transnational social movements has proliferated in tandem with rapid globalization. The scholarship draws upon research conducted by sociologists and political scientists on national social movements and extends it to a global level. Similar questions and concepts applied to national or subnational movements are now applied to transnational movements: Why do they emerge? What are their processes? What are their consequences? Concepts such as political opportunity structure, which have been used to analyze the timing and outcomes of national social movement organizations’ actions, are being extended to understand how the international political arena shapes movements. The majority of work has been case specific and focused on a handful of movements: the human and indigenous rights movements, the women’s movement, the labor movement, and the environmental movement. Over time, this theorizing moved beyond borrowing concepts intended to explain local and national movements to generate concepts and propositions unique to the particularities of local-global/transnational movements. One of the limitations of the work to date is the lack of comparative work and theoretical development. The next stage of research should build upon the empirical work that has been generated by assessing propositions comparatively.
Kenneth A. Gould and Tammy L. Lewis
Melinda Adams and Gwynn Thomas
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.
Transnational organizing by groups dedicated to promoting the rights of gay men and lesbians is not a particularly new phenomenon, though it remained rare in the postwar era. It was not until the advent of the sexual liberation movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues became more prominent. Moreover, despite their diversity, these transnational groups and networks have been able to speak with an increasingly unified voice and have begun to set out a relatively coherent vision for global LGBT human rights organizing. Over the past two decades, transnational LGBT human rights activists have become increasingly successful in getting their voices heard and demands met within prominent international organizations such as the EU and UN. This success, however, has varied dramatically across organizations. Perhaps not surprisingly given the Western origins and biases of transnational LGBT movements and human rights principles, as well as the greater levels of tolerance towards homosexuality in the region, LGBT rights organizations have had their greatest successes in Europe. Generally speaking, however, there has been a significant expansion of LGBT rights over the past 20 years. Yet despite these dramatic developments, the study of LGBT politics has remained peripheral to most fields within the discipline of politics, though there has been an empirical turn in LGBT research.
Wendy W. Wolford and Timothy Gorman
Organization by rural landless movements has been the primary factor driving the implementation of land reform projects. At the heart of land reform is a debate over the very nature of both property and rights within and between socialist and capitalist economic systems of the modern era. One common interpretation of the development of property rights was articulated by Karl Marx, who argued that capitalism was made possible through theft of common land by a rising bourgeois class. The issue of private property rights in land emerged as a crucial aspect of national socialist transformation in the early 1900s. Known as the “Agrarian Question,” it was first formulated by Karl Kautsky as both a political and economic question. Land distribution occurs today via three main mechanisms, which differ in their emphasis on market transactions, state appropriations, and grassroots mobilizations: the market, state, and civil society. Grassroots mobilization to demand access to land has been a key factor behind most if not all land distribution programs. There is a growing literature on the transnational peasant movement (TPM), but much of it is laudatory and descriptive, focusing on the formation of various movements and campaigns. Comparative work is needed to elucidate general trends and retain sensitivity to local conditions in the future. Furthermore, the literature on land reform must be interdisciplinary, with attention to economic issues, political factors, social relations (including power), and historical particularities.