Book Project: Backlash: Defiance, Human Rights, and the Politics of Shame

In the last three decades, scholars and activists have argued that international “naming and shaming” can improve human rights conditions around the world. My book challenges this conventional wisdom. In many cases, shaming not only fails to induce compliance but incites a backlash, provoking resistance and worsening human rights practices. When does shaming lead to an improvement in human rights conditions, and when does it backfire?

I develop a relational theory of human rights enforcement in which the strategic interaction between shamer and target generates incentives to comply with or defy international pressure. The key argument is that international shaming is conditioned by the pre-exiting geopolitical relationship between source and target. Adversaries are quick to condemn human rights abuses, but often provoke a counterproductive response. Allies are the most effective shamers, but are reluctant to impose social sanctions. Thus, shaming is most common in situations where it is least likely to be effective.

I provide evidence for the theory by drawing on large-scale cross-national data, original survey experiments, and detailed case studies. The findings prompt us to rethink the relationship between norms and power politics in the international order.

Peer Reviewed Articles 

Terman, Rochelle and Zoltán Búzás. 2021. “A House Divided: Norm Fragmentation in the International Human Rights Regime.”  International Studies Quarterly.
[Supporting Information] [Replication Materials]

Terman, Rochelle. 2020. “The Positive Side of Negative Identity: Deviance and Stigma in Backlash Movements.British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 22 (4): Symposium on Backlash Politics in Comparison.

Terman, Rochelle and Erik Voeten. 2018. “The Relational Politics of Shame: Evidence from the Universal Periodic Review.Review of International Organizations, 13 (1).
[Supporting Information] [Replication Materials]

Terman, Rochelle. 2017. “Islamophobia and Media Portrayals of Women’s Rights: A Computational Text Analysis of U.S. News CoverageInternational Studies Quarterly, 61 (3).
[Supporting Information] [Replication Materials]

Terman, Rochelle. 2016. “Islamophobia, Feminism, and the Politics of CritiqueTheory, Culture & Society, 33 (2).

Terman, Rochelle. 2010. “Piety of Public Participation: The Revolutionary Muslim Woman in the Islamic Republic of Iran” Politics, Religion, and Ideology, 11 (3).

Terman, Rochelle. 2010. “To Specify or Single Out: Should We Use the Term ‘Honor Killing’?The Muslim World Journal of Human Rights, 7 (1).

Working Papers

“Punishment and Politicization in the International Human Rights Regime.” With Joshua Byun. [Email me for a copy.]
Revise & Resubmit, American Political Science Review.

“Religious Freedom in the City Pool: Gender Segregation, Partisanship, and the Con- struction of Symbolic Boundaries.” With Lisa Argyle and Matti Nelimarkka. [Email me for a copy.]
Under Review

Rewarding Resistance: Theorizing Defiance to International Shaming.”

Transatlantic Shakedown: Does Presidential ‘Naming and Shaming’ Affect NATO Burden Sharing?” With Jordan Becker, Sarah Kreps, and Paul Poast.