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May 18 , 2009

The Promise and Perils of Transnationalization

NGO Activism and the Socialization of Women’s Human Rights in Egypt and Iran


To date, most constructivist international relations studies have characterized the influence of transnationalism on domestic forms of activism as uniformly positive. In particular, transnational interactions are viewed as positive factors for the development and daily impact of gender activism.

Benjamin Stachursky’s book questions the unvarying positive view of transnationalism on domestic forms of activism, arguing for a more nuanced analysis that permits an understanding of the enabling and restricting effects of transnationalism. Stachursky also challenges the dominant view of civil society as normatively homogenous by illustrating the complex relationships and conflicts that exist between NGOs and other civil society representatives. He grounds his theoretical arguments with a comparative case study on women’s rights activism in Egypt and Iran, which uses semi-structured interviews with women’s rights activists in the two countries and analysis of documentation by local political and societal actors. Looking at the period from the mid-1980s up to present developments such as the Arab Spring, Stachursky analyzes the emergence and development of NGO activism in Egypt and Iran, the social, political, and legal context of NGO activism, and key domestic debates on the impact and legitimacy of the actors operating in women’s rights activism.

By closely examining the ambivalent relationship between transnationalism and human rights organizations, Stachursky proves that transnationalization has both enabling and constraining effects on the domestic legitimacy of women’s rights activists and on their ability to create meaningful social and political change.

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