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Human Rights as Uncertain Performance During the Arab Spring

Sat, August 11, 4:30 to 6:10pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Floor: Level 100, 105AB

Abstract

Sociological research on human rights charts engagement with the human rights regime as a long-term trend of increasing commitment to human rights. This increased normative commitment comes with growing decoupling between autocratic states’ domestic human rights protections and international human rights commitments. But we have a limited understanding of how specific events, or crises, shape this long-term expansion of human rights norms. This paper explores the effect of the Arab Spring on voting in the UN Human Rights Council and more broadly how events characterized by uncertainty shape political performances. Using multiple growth curve models, I find that the emergence of the Arab Spring changed the voting patterns of most repressive states, but only temporarily. This paper thus extends the existing scholarship on human rights to a new venue, one that allows for an analysis of how states respond to new events and political uncertainties. This paper concludes that performances such as human rights voting are event-specific. Commitment to norms such as human rights — and perhaps other performances of state legitimacy — is situational.

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