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Article

The Legitimation of Repression in Autocracies  

Maria Josua

In research on authoritarianism, both legitimation and repression have received growing attention since the late 2000s. However, these two strategies of political rule do not form separate pillars of power; they are interlinked and affect each other. Autocrats not only rule with an iron fist, but they also seek to legitimize their use of repression vis-à-vis at least some of their citizens and the outside world. These legitimizing discourses are part of political communication in autocracies and can be studied using the approach of framing. So far, few researchers of the protest–repression nexus have studied how protesters are being framed by officials in autocracies. The communication of repression varies widely across autocracies. Authoritarian incumbents differ in their degree of openness vs. opacity, impacting also on how they publicize, admit to, or conceal certain forms of repression. When choosing to justify acts of repression, multiple factors influence which types of justification are used. One decisive factor is against which targets repression is employed. In framing the targets of repression in a certain way, autocratic elites pursue a twin strategy in that they seek to attain the approval of certain audiences and to deter potential or actual dissidents. Furthermore, justifications diverge regarding which actors use them and towards which audiences. Past experiences and regime characteristics also impact on how repression is justified. This research program offers great potential for studying state–society relations in autocracies. It cuts across research on political violence, authoritarian legitimation, and political communication. For understanding the persistence of autocracies in times of contention, it is an important piece in the puzzle of authoritarian survival strategies illuminating the “dark side” of legitimation.

Article

Afghanistan: Martial Society Without Military Rule  

Amin Tarzi

Since its inception as a separate political entity in 1747, Afghanistan has been embroiled in almost perpetual warfare but has never been ruled directly by the military. From initial expansionist military campaigns to involvement in defensive, civil, and internal consolidation campaigns, the Afghan military until the mid-19th century remained mainly a combination of tribal forces and smaller organized units. The central government, however, was only able to gain tenuous monopoly over the use of violence throughout the country by the end the 19th century. The military as well as the Afghan society remained largely illiterate and generally isolated from the prevailing global political and ideological trends until the middle of the 20th century. The politicization of the Afghan military began in very small numbers after World War II, with Soviet-inspired communism gaining the largest foothold. Officers associated with the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan were instrumental in two successful coups d’état in the country. In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, ending the country’s sovereignty and ushering in a period of conflict that has continued into the third decade of the 21st century in varying degrees. In 2001, the United States led an international invasion of the country, which was followed by efforts to organize smaller, professional Afghan national defense forces, which remained largely apolitical and became the country’s most effective and trusted governmental institution. However, designed by foreign forces to support foreign goals, they disintegrated when left to defend the country independently against the Taliban in 2021. The Taliban may represent a new phenomenon in Afghanistan, that of having a politicized militarized force.

Article

Gender and Racial Violence Against Afro-Brazilian LGBTQ+ Women  

Jaimee A. Swift

Afro-Brazilian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) women are often neglected in political and academic discourses on state-sanctioned violence. Despite global imagery and nationalist narratives that portray Brazil as racially democratic and sexually inclusive of its LGBTQ+ communities, Afro-Brazilian LGBTQ+ women disproportionately endure state-sponsored terror and violence in communities compounded by structural anti-LGBTQ+ and antiblack subalternity. Brazil houses the largest Afro-descendant populous in the world outside the African continent. Yet, law enforcement routinely targets and murders Afro-Brazilians in what is considered by many black Brazilian activists to be a “black genocide.” The country also has one of the highest rates of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes and murders in the world, which heavily impacts its robust Afro-descendant LGBTQ+ community. As victims and survivors of police terror, community violence, and antiblack and gendered structural inequities, Afro-Brazilian LGBTQ+ women and their activism against repressive machinations of state violence, anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes, and socioeconomic and political injustices is rarely discussed in scholarship on transnational, black political movement building. The chronic undertheorization of Afro-Brazilian LGBTQ+ women’s voices, lives, and scholarship has omitted their saliency as sociopolitical and intellectual agents of change in the field of black politics and influential articulators of the black radical tradition in Brazil. In examining the politics of gender, sexuality, race, violence, citizenship, and political resistance in Brazil, it is imperative to center Afro-Brazilian LGBTQ+ women’s political significance in Latin America and beyond.

Article

Eritrea: The Everyday Politics of Mass Militarization  

Jennifer Riggan

Eritrea has a long history as a heavily militarized nation, dating back to its 30-year war for independence from Ethiopia. Militarization is a core component of Eritrean nationalism and state formation, which is arguably forged out of war but is also implicated in Eritrea’s problematic human rights record. Following Eritrea’s 1991 independence, the country was poised to democratize and liberalize. At that time, the country also began an intensive process of nation-building of which militarization was a central part. In 1995, Eritrea introduced the national service program. Eritrea’s national/military service, which requires 6 months of military training and 12 months of free military or civil service for all Eritreans (male and female), initially enjoyed widespread public support although there were always concerns about harsh living and labor conditions. In 1998, a border war with Ethiopia broke out. At this time, those who had military training in national service were recalled. Although fighting ended in 2000, the border war deepened Eritrea’s adherence to militarization as a key strategy of national defense, nation-building, and development. A condition of no-peace, no-war followed the border war. The long period of no-war, no-peace with Ethiopia allowed Eritrea’s president, Isaias Afewerki, to consolidate his power, deepen authoritarian rule, and extend the national service program indefinitely. The indefinite extension of national service meant that conscripts were not demobilized and new recruits into national service could not be assured that they would ever be released. Due to the indefinite extension of military service, harsh conditions in the military, and extreme punishments for those who try to escape the military, Eritrea’s national/military service requirement is at the center of concern about human rights and civil liberties in Eritrea. Militarization has since become fused with state control and punishment, leading to human rights and civil liberties violations and the mass flight of close to half a million Eritreans over the past decades. Despite the announcement in summer of 2018 that Eritrea and Ethiopia had finally agreed to peace, no one has been released from the military and Eritreans continue to flood out of the country to avoid national service conditions which have been equated with slavery.

Article

Attitudes Toward LGBT People and Their Rights in Europe  

Kath Wilson

Attitudes toward LGBT people have changed in Europe since the 1990s; there is generally much more tolerance and acceptance. Evidence drawn from surveys and research projects including the European Social Survey, European Values Study, and Pew Research Center illustrate the types of attitudes that have changed, and in which European countries change has occurred. A comparison of attitudes and tolerance across Europe indicates that some countries and groups of countries are more accepting of LGBT people. North-western European nations appear high in the tolerance rankings of trend surveys, while more easterly European nations have not always followed this progression. Indeed, in cases such as Russia and Chechnya, “propaganda laws” have denied LGBT people basic human rights. Hostility toward and violence against LGBT people is perpetrated with seeming impunity in these areas. Factors that influence attitudes toward LGBT people and their rights include democracy and economic development, religiosity, global forces, and degrees of contact. There is a clear link between legislation and attitudes; in countries where legislation is in place and, for example, where same-sex marriage is legal, surveys overwhelmingly show a higher acceptance of LGBT people. Legislation is a powerful influence in shaping social attitudes, so it is important to consider the legislation adopted by various European countries. Institutions such as the European Union are effective in providing protections for LGBT citizens as well as leading on areas such as the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). There has been “pushback” in terms of change and one of the more contested areas is same-sex marriage. While the trend since the late 20th century has seemed to be toward introducing same-sex marriage, a number of countries, largely in Eastern Europe, have introduced constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, defining marriage as solely between a man and woman. The position of trans and non-binary people is particularly perilous since there is very little legislative protection in place for them. There has been a positive change in attitudes and legislation across Europe which has enhanced the lived lives of LGBT people; these changes, however, have not been even or uniform across the area.

Article

Evaluating Success and Failure in Crisis Management  

Allan McConnell

Crises and disasters come in many shapes and sizes. They range from global pandemics and global financial crises to tsunamis, hurricanes, volcanic ash clouds, bushfires, terrorist attacks, critical infrastructure failures and food contamination episodes. Threats may be locally isolated such as an explosion at a local fireworks factory, or they may cascade across multiple countries and sectors, such as pandemics. No country is immune from the challenge of managing extraordinary threats, and doing so out of their comfort zone of routine policy making. The crisis management challenge involves managing threats ‘on the ground’, as well as the political fallout and societal fears. Populist and journalistic commentary frequently labels crisis management initiatives as having either succeeded or failed. The realities are much more complex. Evaluators confront numerous methodological challenges. These include the careful consideration of multiple and often competing outcomes, differing perceptions, issues of success for whom, and gray areas stemming from shortfalls and lack of evidence, as well as variations over time. Despite such complexity, some key themes appear continually across evaluations, from internal reviews to royal commissions and accident inquiries. These pertain to the ways in which evaluations can be shaped heavily or lightly by political agendas, the degree to which evaluating organizations are able to open up, the degree to which gray areas and shortfalls are stumbling blocks in producing findings, and the challenge of producing coherent investigative narratives when many storylines are possible. Ultimately, evaluating crisis initiatives is “political” in nature because it seeks to provide authoritative evaluations that reconcile multiple views, from experts and lawyers to victims and their families.

Article

HIV/AIDS Politics and Policy in U.S. States and Localities  

Patricia Siplon

From the earliest days of its recognition in the United States, the condition that came to be known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has been associated with the gay community. In fact, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first made written notice of the syndrome in 1981, the acronym GRID (gay-related immune disease) was commonly, although not officially, used to describe it. In the five years that followed, the causal agent, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), was discovered, specific demographic groups were identified as at heightened risk of infection, and transmission routes—including sexual activity, intravenous drug use, and transfusion of blood and blood products—were determined. Identification of HIV with the gay community as a major risk group had important ramifications for prevention and treatment policy, as the community mobilized a rights-based approach that advocated harm reduction over abstinence and access and affordability of treatment over the interests of the private market. These concepts carried into later debates as the world recognized the global severity of HIV and grappled for the first time ever with a goal of universal treatment access in the world’s poorest countries where the pandemic is most severe. Identification of HIV with values, conceptual structures, leadership, and mobilization drawn from the gay community also had ramifications on the social and political contexts of AIDS treatment and prevention globally, as governments and cultures that had ignored or demonized their gay populations have increased their interactions with them as “risk groups” and as political actors. Despite the remarkable inroads made into accessibility of treatment, the world remains without a vaccine, a cure, or the political will to fully implement universal treatment access, which means that eradication of the global pandemic remains elusive.

Article

The Politics of Crisis Terminology  

Allan McConnell

The politics of crisis terminology is rarely examined directly. Crisis is an “umbrella,” under which resides a multitude of terms such as accidents, emergencies, fiascos, disasters, and catastrophes, as well as variations such as natural disasters, transboundary crises, and mega-crises. Yet the sheer diversity and frequent ambiguity among terms reflects the “politics” of how societies and political actors seek to cope with and address extreme events, which often pose a mixture of threat and opportunity. Central to an understanding is how (a) different terms are means of framing issues such as the scale and causes of the crisis, (b) crisis terms are part of governing strategies, and (c) nongovernmental actors (opposition parties, media, lobby groups, social movements, and citizens) can seek to influence government. A pivotal point in developing an understanding of crisis terminology is that rather bemoaning the lack of singular meanings for crisis and associated terms, or criticizing actors for “abuse” of the terms, one should recognize and accept that complex and contested crisis language and definitions are in themselves manifestations of politics in political societies.

Article

The Political Economy of LGBT Rights  

Scott N. Siegel

Equal treatment for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has improved at a rapid pace around the world since the gay rights movement first rose up to become a salient global force for change. With important regional exceptions, laws criminalizing same-sex sexual relations have not only come down in multiple countries, but same-sex couples can now also construct families in many advanced industrialized countries. Public acceptance of homosexuality, even in some non-Western countries, has increased dramatically. Yet, within those general trends hides the remarkable unevenness in the spread and adoption of policies fostering legal, social, and economic equality for LGBTQ communities around the world. Policy change toward more equal treatment for sexual minorities is concentrated in the developed world and within the cisgender gay and lesbian communities in particular. The existing literature in policy change shows the importance of transnational activists, changing international norms, and increasing levels of secularization have made this possible. But the effectiveness of these factors rests on an underlying foundation of socioeconomic factors based on economic and social development that characterizes advanced industrialized states. There is an uneven distribution of resources and interests among pro and anti-LGBT activist groups alike, and the differing levels of economic development in which they operate that explains the decidedly uneven nature of how LGBTQ human rights have advanced in the past 50 years. In addition, new political parties and activist organizations have emerged to lead the backlash against LGBTQ rights, showing progress is neither inevitable nor linear. In addition, serious gaps in what we know about LGBT politics remain because of the overwhelming scholarly focus on advanced industrialized states and policies that benefit the cisgender, gay and lesbian middle class in primarily Western societies. The study of LGBT politics in non-Western and developing countries is woefully neglected, for reasons attributed to the nature of the research community and the subject area. In the developed world, greater attention is needed to inequality within the LGBTQ community and issues beyond same-sex marriage. Finally, issues of intersectionality and how different groups within the LGBT community have enjoyed most of the benefits of the gay rights movement since its takeoff more than 50 years ago.

Article

Urban Environmental Activism in Latin America  

Marcelo Lopes de Souza

If environmental activism revolves around problems and challenges related to the socioecological context of a collectivity (that is, the material framework in which it exists, from the point of view of access to resources and infrastructure, conditions of public health ,and embeddedness in ecosystems and naturogenic processes and dynamics), urban environmental activism can be characterized as activism in which the agendas, actors, and conflicts involved are specifically related to the urban space and its peculiarities, considered from a broad socioecological perspective. Considering the immense body of literature that has accumulated over the last 30 years on the environmental problems of Latin America, it is disappointing to see that only a comparatively small part of it refers specifically to urban environmental conflicts and activism. This is disturbing, because already in 2007, 78% of Latin America’s population lived in cities or other geographical entities classified as urban. Moreover, although in some core capitalist countries, too, there are many kinds of urban environmental problems, caused by omission, irresponsibility, or structural causes linked to class differences and asymmetries of power, Latin American problems and conflicts—above all those related to environmental injustice—are far more dramatic. Symptomatically, environmental struggles have been massive and have typically involved basic rights and the non-satisfaction of basic needs in the cities of the region. At the end of the day, it is clear that there have always been two basic types of urban environmental activism in Latin America: on the one side, a kind of environmental activism (and ecological discourse) that masks contradictions and class struggle, as it adopts a strict “preservationist” perspective that reveals itself to be insensitive to human needs and rights; on the other side, however, there are radical social struggles that are at the same time environmental struggles, particularly those explicitly or implicitly related to environmental justice. This diversity demonstrates both the richness and the contradictions of a contested sociopolitical landscape, where terms like sustainability and environmental protection have been instrumentalized for different, sometimes mutually incompatible, purposes.