CISS Academic Colloquium Series Presents: Politicization and Punishment in the International Human Rights Regime
Department:Center for International Security Studies
Audience:Restricted to Princeton University
Rochelle Terman is the Provost's Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago, where she will begin as Assistant Professor in Fall 2020. She studies international norms, gender, and advocacy, with a focus on the Muslim world. Her current book project, Backlash: Defiance, Human Rights, and the Politics of Shame, investigates counter-productive consequences of global “naming and shaming” campaigns. The manuscript is based on her dissertation, which won the 2017 Merze Tate Award for the best dissertation in international relations, law, and politics from the American Political Science Association. Terman is also interested is computational social science, and teaches courses on machine learning, text analysis, and programming. Terman earned her B.A. from the University of Chicago, and Ph.D. in Political Science with a designated emphasis in Gender & Women’s Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She joins the University of Chicago from Stanford University, where she was a post-doc at the Center for International Security and Cooperation.
In this talk, Dr. Terman will discuss her article (co-authored with Joshua Byun, University of Chicago) entitled, "Politicization and Punishment in the International Human Rights Regime." By virtually all accounts, the international human rights regime is deeply politicized; violations are condemned based on geopolitical interests rather than normative principles. What factors promote politicization of global norms? This paper offers an account of politicization in the human rights regime rooted in enforcement dynamics. While enforcement or “shaming” can be costly, states also collect social benefits by defending international norms and stigmatizing offenders. As a result, geopolitical relationships shape patterns of human rights enforcement. Further, the influence of geopolitical interests becomes more pronounced as the political costs associated with a given human rights issue increase in severity. We evaluate the argument through quantitative analysis of the most elaborate human rights enforcement process in the international system: the United Nations Universal Periodic Review. We find that geopolitical adversaries are more likely to shame each other on politically costly issues that undermine the target regime’s legitimacy or its ability to rule. Friendly states, by contrast, are more likely to address safer topics in order to avoid offending the target. Our findings point to an inherent trade-off between the politicization of international human rights, on the one hand, and their weak enforcement on the other. When international norms become stronger, and the consequences attached to violations grow more severe, the incentives driving politicization intensify. The article can be viewed here.