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“I Am My Brother’s Keeper”: The Politics of Protecting Human Rights Defenders at Risk in Kenya

Ichim, Irina E (2017) “I Am My Brother’s Keeper”: The Politics of Protecting Human Rights Defenders at Risk in Kenya. PhD thesis, University of York.

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In this study, I examine the protection of human rights defenders as a contemporary form of human rights practice in Kenya, within a broader socio-political and economic framework, that includes histories of activism in Kenya. By doing so, I seek to explore how the protection regime, a globally defined set of norms and institutions increasingly located in the Global South, becomes embedded in a specific setting, and how it is used by relevant stakeholders. Conversely, by drawing on rich empirical data from a given context, I aim to nuance existing theoretical thinking about protection, and to tease out the implications for the broader political and economic processes in which the protection regime is inscribed. By drawing on two years of ethnographic research in Kenya, I show that institutionalized protection as an extension of professional human rights can be counterproductive for the goals of the protection regime, but also for those of human rights more broadly conceived. Firstly, institutionalised protection entrenches pre-existing power relationships between professional activists and grassroots defenders across a class and socio-economic divide. Secondly, relevant actors at times resist this setting by appropriating the protection regime for purposes other than those it was intended for. Finally, the ensuing tensions risk eroding the human rights movement rather than strengthening it. This study provides a critique of recent processes of professionalization by contextualizing them within wider histories of oppression and struggle. Additionally, it shows how economics, power and politics matter within locations (rather than just across the Global/South divide). In doing so, it provides a nuanced assessment of the protection regime as the human rights movement’s primary response to reprisals against civic space across the globe. Finally, this study also adds to the growing body of scholarly work that investigates the effects that human rights and related norms and practices have in social life.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Politics (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.752629
Depositing User: Miss Irina E Ichim
Date Deposited: 28 Aug 2018 12:19
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2020 13:03
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20506

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