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Transnational LGBT Activism

Working for Sexual Rights Worldwide

2014
Author:

Ryan R. Thoreson

Transnational LGBT Activism

A firsthand account of the work of transnational LGBT human rights activists

Transnational LGBT Activism argues that the idea of LGBT human rights is not predetermined but instead is defined by international activists who establish what and who qualifies for protection. The result is a uniquely balanced, empirical response to previous critiques of Western human rights activists—and a clarifying perspective on the nature and practice of global human rights advocacy.

The first of its kind, this book responds in a balanced, self-reflexive, nuanced, empirically-based way to a number of sharp critiques of Western human rights activists, frameworks and ‘imperialisms.’ With careful ethnographic observation in a series of case studies, Ryan R. Thoreson makes a significant contribution to the scholarship on human rights, on global sexualities and, hence, to the cause of sexual minority rights in the global South and Africa in particular.

Marc Epprecht, Queen’s University

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) was founded in 1990 as the first NGO devoted to advancing LGBT human rights worldwide. How, this book asks, is that mission translated into practice? What do transnational LGBT human rights advocates do on a day-to-day basis and for whom? Understanding LGBT human rights claims is impossible, Ryan R. Thoreson contends, without knowing the answers to these questions.

In Transnational LGBT Activism, Thoreson argues that the idea of LGBT human rights is not predetermined but instead is defined by international activists who establish what and who qualifies for protection. He shows how IGLHRC formed and evolved, who is engaged in this work, how they conceptualize LGBT human rights, and how they have institutionalized their views at the United Nations and elsewhere. After a full year of in-depth research in New York City and Cape Town, South Africa, Thoreson is able to reconstruct IGLHRC’s early campaigns and highlight decisive shifts in the organization’s work from its founding to the present day.

Using a number of high-profile campaigns for illustration, he offers insight into why activists have framed particular demands in specific ways and how intergovernmental advocacy shapes the claims that activists ultimately make. The result is a uniquely balanced, empirical response to previous impressionistic and reductive critiques of Western human rights activists—and a clarifying perspective on the nature and practice of global human rights advocacy.

Transnational LGBT Activism

Ryan Thoreson has a JD from the Yale Law School and a DPhil in anthropology from Oxford University.

Transnational LGBT Activism

The first of its kind, this book responds in a balanced, self-reflexive, nuanced, empirically-based way to a number of sharp critiques of Western human rights activists, frameworks and ‘imperialisms.’ With careful ethnographic observation in a series of case studies, Ryan R. Thoreson makes a significant contribution to the scholarship on human rights, on global sexualities and, hence, to the cause of sexual minority rights in the global South and Africa in particular.

Marc Epprecht, Queen’s University

This groundbreaking book provides a first-ever in-depth, ethnographic examination of the internal process of a northern NGO focused on LGBT rights in global context.

Amy Lind, University of Cincinnati

Thoreson has produced a fascinating development of critiques and studies of LGBT human rights and the organisations which advocate for them.

Antipode

Transnational LGBT Activism

Contents

Abbreviations

Introduction: “Studying Up” and the Anthropology of Transnational LGBT Human Rights Advocacy

1. From the Castro to the UN: IGLHRC in Historical Perspective
2. Bodies of Law: Activists and Brokerage in Practice
3. Fusing Human Rights and Sexual Politics: Advocating for LGBT Human Rights Worldwide
4. LGBT Human Rights Advocacy and the Partnership Principle
5. Knowledge as Power: The Structural and Strategic Complexities of Information Politics
6. Demanding Rights, Compelling Recognition: LGBT Advocacy in the Global Human Rights Arena

Conclusion. For Everyone, Everywhere: Universality, Relativism, and the Anthropology of
Human Rights

Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

Transnational LGBT Activism

UMP blog | LGBT History Month: A look at behind-the-scenes groundwork that leads to the headline-grabbing victories.

Movements like the push for LGBT rights are animated by committed advocates working in tandem, often with little recognition or acclaim, and typically over long periods of time.