Backlash: Defiance, Human Rights, and the Politics of Shame
From the historic public square to modern-day social media, “naming and shaming” is widely regarded as an effective tactic to enforce social norms. My research challenges this conventional wisdom, revealing that public shaming can be counterproductive and even dangerous.
In this talk, I discuss findings from my current book project exploring shaming in the global human rights arena. In many cases, international shaming not only fails to induce compliance but backfires by politicizing international norms, provoking resistance, and worsening violations. I describe a new theory of norm backlash and draw evidence from cross-national data, survey experiments, and in-depth case studies. Together, the results highlight a “politicization paradox” whereby those practices designed to punish norm violations operate in such a way as to encourage, reward, and perpetuate them.
Beyond the international sphere, these insights have broad relevance to questions surrounding digital advocacy, social media shaming, and the use of human rights discourse to promote Internet access.
Rochelle Terman is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. She is also a faculty affiliate with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Center for the Study of Gender & Sexuality, the Committee on International Relations, and the Program on Computational Social Science.
Terman specializes in international relations, with an emphasis on international norms, human rights, and the Muslim world. She is currently working on a book project that examines resistance and defiance towards global human rights pressure. The manuscript is based on her dissertation, which won the 2017 Merze Tate Award from the American Political Science Association for the best dissertation in international relations, law, and politics.
Terman teaches computational social science at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, including Computational Tools for Social Science. She received her Ph.D. in political science with a designated emphasis in gender & women’s studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and was previously a post-doc at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.
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