On Queer Migration and Regionalism:‘Queer Imaginaries and the Re-making of the Modern Middle East’ (with Sa’ed Atshan), grant proposal and book project On Anti-LGBT Networks in World Politics: (Team led by PI: Kristina Stoeckl): ‘Moral Conservatism and Russian Orthodoxy: Towards a Post-Secular Conflict Theory’ and ‘The Global Resistance to SOGI Rights: Actors, Claims, Responses’ (with Kristina Stoeckel), book project in preparation
On LGBT Rights Diffusion: "Same-sex Unions: Comparing Mechanisms of Social Learning among American States and European Nations," in preparation
PAST RESEARCH Find all of the below mentioned PUBLICATIONShere.
On Transnational Social Movements, Norm Diffusion and Socio-legal Change: My single-authored book, published by Cambridge University Press in May 2016, represents the first strand of my research. Entitled When States Come Out: Europe’s Sexual Minorities and the Politics of Visibility, the book explores the domestic conditions under which international norms are most likely to spread. Why, despite similar international pressures, are the trajectories of socio-legal recognition for marginalized groups so different across states – for example, why do some traditional Catholic countries lead on LGBT rights policies and why do some advanced, wealthy democracies remain laggards? Who are the agents of socio-legal change and how are they mobilized? These questions are not answered by traditional explanations for diffusion and social change, such as differences in international pressures, the fit between domestic and international norms, modernization, or low implementation costs. Instead, my research suggests that the degree to which international norms resonate in various states – and become internalized within them – depends on domestic social movements and specific international channels that make political issues visible. The extent of a state’s openness to international organizations and information flows has demonstrable effects on diffusion because it affects the ability of new ideas to enter the domestic discourse. Furthermore, the degree to which domestic actors are embedded in transnational advocacy networks illuminates the issue and shapes the speed and direction of diffusion. Based on large-n quantitative analyses and extensive data collection during two years of Fulbright and Humboldt Foundation-sponsored fieldwork in Europe, my book is the first systematic multi-method analysis of both social and legal change concerning sexual minorities. A 2019 symposium and my response in Politics Groups & Identities reflects on the book and its impact on LGBT politics.
On Political Opportunity Structures, State Hierarchies and Issue Framing: In a related vein, I have completed studies on political opportunities in social movement research, exploring the extent to which processes of Europeanization facilitate the political mobilization of and influence the strategies adopted by LGBT advocates. My 2013 article in the European Political Science Review exemplifies this research on horizontal political opportunities. Another study was concerned with state hierarchies and reputation in international relations and was published in the European Journal of International Relations. There I argued that states problematically exploit LGBT norms to signal “modernity,” which can nonetheless translate into tangible legal successes for LGBT movement actors nationally. Furthermore, with Agnes Chetaille (EHESS), I have a 2020 article in Social Movement Studies that explores how movements frame their claims and identities in response to opposing movements. The study explores how multi-level discursive opportunities can emerge simultaneously for both movement and countermovement, leading to a contest of interpreting the politically potent symbols that come to the fore. We use content analysis to trace the trajectory of the LGBT movement’s frames over two decades, making the crucial point that they are shaped by ongoing movement/countermovement interactions, as well as the multi-level discursive context in which they operate.
On Pride and the Cultural Outcomes (Public Opinion) of Social Movements: A 2021 article in the American Political Science Review (with Douglas Page and Sam Whitt) asks: How do mass publics react to LGBT advocacy efforts in socially conservative societies? We consider how the first-ever LGBT+ Pride in Sarajevo, Bosnia influences ordinary citizens’ attitudes and behavior regarding LGBT support. Using nationwide and local panel surveys, we find that support for LGBT activism increased locally after the Pride but did not diffuse nationwide, signaling how proximity mechanisms reinforce Pride effects. In survey experiments, we show that subjects are responsive to both mobilization and counter-mobilization appeals by local activists. We also find evidence from a behavioral experiment that the Pride had a positive impact on shifting the allocation of financial resources toward local pro-LGBT activists and away from opposition groups. The study underscores the challenges facing LGBT activism in socially conservative societies but also points to the substantial possibilities of collective action on behalf of minorities at risk. A follow-up piece in Social Forces (with Douglas Page and Sam Whitt) explains why the 2019 Sarajevo Pride increased LGBT+ support locally but had no immediate effects on attitudes in greater Bosnia. It also explains why LGBT+ support has since expanded beyond the capital to Bosnia’s surrounding regions two years later. Even when local LGBT+ visibility is low or nonexistent, underlying cultural receptivity can be conducive to the gradual diffusion of LGBT+ support.
On State Repression and Protest Policing: I have simultaneously maintained an active research program on related and separate questions, ranging from state repression of protest to fieldwork methodology. In a third strand of research, best represented by my publication in Mobilization in 2010, I analyzed the reasons why states repress protest movements in some cases and not in others. To answer this question, I explored both the characteristics of the individual protests and the state-level conditions that produce different outcomes in four European states. I found that a protest’s ‘threat’ to the state begets repression, while its ‘weakness’ attracts repression only under specific domestic conditions.
On Religion, Nationalism and Backlash to LGBT Movements: My article in the Journal of Human Rights further engages the theme of state repression of movements. That article explores backlashes to norms governing LGBT rights, asking why such rights mobilize an active resistance in some cases and not in others. It shows that differing perceptions of threat define the way international norms are received in distinct domestic realms, and argues that threat perception is heightened in cases where religion is historically embedded in the essence of the popular nation. My piece with Agnes Chetaille (EHESS) in Social Movement Studies explores how rival movements interact.
On Regional Integration and the Geopolitics of Human Rights: In another strand of my research, I have worked with David Paternotte (Université Libre de Bruxelles) to explain how European LGBT activists use an ‘idea of Europe’ – both as a set of values and as a strategic means by which to gain rights – to place demands in various domestic realms. This line of work resulted in two articles and the edited volume LGBT Activism and the Making of Europe: A Rainbow Europe? It also resulted in multiple updated and spin-off publications with David Paternotte, including a 2020 piece called “Europe and LGBT Rights: A Conflicted Relationship,’ in The Oxford Handbook of Global LGBT and Sexual Diversity Politics (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).
On Triangulation in Social Movement Research: I also write on methodological approaches for triangulation in social movement research, as well as the effect of such approaches on the study of marginalized communities. With Sophia Wallace (University of Washington) and Chris Zepeda-Millán (University of California, Los Angeles), I published one aspect of this research in Donatella della Porta’s important 2014 volume Methodological Practices in Social Movement Research.
On Media Visibility, Civil Society and Public Opinion: Additionally, I have explored the relationship between global media flows and liberalization of social issues across states. This work is exemplified by two separate projects: first on how the Internet and deterritorialization impact civil society (with Olga Brzezinska, Jagiellonian University, published in 2015), and second on how global media consumption affects attitudes toward minorities (with Jeremiah Garretson, California State University, published in 2017). The latter piece was published in Comparative Political Studies. In 2017 it won the prize for best article of the year by the Gender and Sexuality Research Network of the Council for European Studies.
On Political Behavior, Civil Society, and Public Opinion: A related piece (with Douglas Page, Gettysburg College) that comes out of this line of work looks at the effects of political homophobia on political participation. Existing research suggests that supporters of gay rights have out-mobilized their opponents, leading to policy changes in advanced industrialized democracies. At the same time, we observe the diffusion of state-sponsored homophobia in many parts of the world. The emergence of gay rights as a salient political issue in global politics leads us to ask: who is empowered to be politically active in various societies? What current research misses is a comparison of levels of participation (voting and protesting) between states that make stronger and weaker appeals to homophobia. Voters face contrasting appeals from politicians in favor of and against gay rights globally. In an analysis of survey data from Europe and Latin America, we argue that the alignment between the norms of sexuality a state promotes and an individual’s personal attitudes on sexuality increases felt political efficacy. We find that individuals that are tolerant of homosexuality are more likely to participate in states with gay-friendly policies in comparison to intolerant individuals. The reverse also holds: individuals with low education levels that are intolerant of homosexuality are more likely to participate in states espousing political homophobia.
On Anti-LGBT Networks in World Politics: As part of a team led by Kristina Stoeckl (University of Innsbruck), we won an ERC Standing Grant (years 2016-2022) for a project that explores the global ramifications of gendered moral conservatism—in essence the other side of the coin to my earlier book project. My part of this project with Stoeckl looks at norm polarization on a global scale and charts the transnational network of anti-gender advocacy. We have written a book (forthcoming at NYU Press) on this topic, exploring the network of this rival activism and its global political ramifications. We argue that anti-gender resistances have employed in the last decade many of the same transnational tools that garnered LGBTIQ people their widespread recognition. They also conform to the boomerang and spiral models of human rights diffusion, but in a process we reconceive as a double helix. As the double-helix metaphor suggests, rival TANs have a reciprocal relationship, having to navigate each other’s presence in an interactive space. In other words, both those who seek the advancement of SOGI rights and those who oppose them use related strategies and instruments for mutually exclusive ends. An early iteration of these ideas have been explored in a 2018 published chapter called ‘Protean Power in Movement: Navigating Uncertainty in the LGBT Rights Revolution’ (in Peter Katzenstein and Lucia Seybert’s volume, Protean Power, Cambridge University Press).
On Political Intersectionality and Coalition Building: A separate project explores the intersection between gender, immigration, and LGBT rights, asking under what conditions we observe transnational alliances across groups representing distinct social justice issues. I explore two overarching questions that inform our understanding of political intersectionality in movement coalition building work: When and why do alliances across social justice movements exist? And how do limited material resources affect the intersectional consciousness of the movement and the nature of coalition building work? To answer these questions, I conducted an expert survey to assess the intersectional consciousness of the European LGBT movement during times of severe financial crisis. The findings suggest that the movement seeks to be more inclusive than it actually is on the ground, where middle-upper class gay men still dominate decision-making procedures. Furthermore, while cross-movement alliances are frequent, they are context-specific and predominantly facilitated by INGOs and European institutions. I argue, somewhat paradoxically, that intersectional consciousness is most present at the transnational level (as opposed to the domestic level). There, the potential for brokering cross-movement relationships is high and the financial crisis has heightened that consciousness. This line of work provides fertile linkages between international and comparative politics of movements with feminist and queer theory. This work was partly published in Social Politics in 2019, and an adapted version appeared in a 2020 volume on Gendered Mobilizations (edited by Jill Irvine, Sabine Lang, and Celeste Montoya).
On Migration and Transnational Queer Mobilizations: In 2019 article in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, with my undergraduate student (Lauren Bauman, now a PhD student at UNC Chapel Hill), we explore the relationship between migration and networks of transnational queer activism in Europe, arguing that migrant inflows increase the propensity for queer social movement organizations to orient their focus beyond the state. Existing social movement research suggests a characteristic common to activists who are most likely to facilitate and take part in cross-border activism: mobile histories of their own. Using the case of queer mobilization, we bring into focus the mechanisms connecting migration and the proliferation of social movement organizations that champion queer causes transnationally (tSMOs). Migration contributes to new and unique continental ties between multi-national queer organizations. We argue that these ties change the landscape of queer activism in Europe by forming the bonds of solidarity across borders that lead to transnational queer mobilization. This is largely because migrants’ identities are rooted in multiple spaces and thus trigger solidarity around a multi-faceted understanding of sexual plurality, putting new issues and contexts on the agenda for queer activism. We utilize a mixed-methods approach to show a strong relationship between migrant inflows and queer tSMOs, based on an original dataset spanning twenty-six European OECD countries and on qualitative interviews with migrant activists.
On the Diffusion of Same-Sex Unions and Anti-Discrimination Rights: With Kelly Kollman (University of Glasgow) we have developed a research project that explores the predictors of same-sex unions policies in both the United States and the European Union. Since 1989, the vast majority of democracies in North America and Europe have implemented national same-sex unions (SSU) policies that recognize such couples in law, making it one of the most salient and celebrated issues of identity politics in recent decades. The United States (often called “exceptional” in this regard) was one of the last established western democracies to implement such a law at the national level with the Obergefell Supreme Court decision in 2015, a quarter of a century after Denmark implemented the first SSU policy. In this project we seek to challenge the idea that the underlying political dynamics of same-sex relationship recognition differ significantly in Europe and the US. We posit that in both regions the diffusion of SSU policies, and more recently laws that open marriage, has been significantly influenced and accelerated by processes of social learning and the strong demonstration effect exerted by early adopters. While certain domestic cultural, institutional, and movement variables can act as brakes to SSU adoption in these democracies, they rarely act as complete barriers to reform in the face of widespread diffusion of these high-profile policies. US policymakers do seem to differ from their European counterparts in one key aspect, however; namely from whom they are willing to learn. Whereas European and other North American countries take inspiration from countries across the globe, policymakers in the US tend only to take their cues from jurisdictions within the US itself, primarily other US states. While this work is still in preparation, we published a paper that came out of this work in the European Journal of Political Research in 2021. It looks at the under-theorized role of urbanization as a predictor of the diffusion of SSUs and Anti-Discrimination policies.
On political representation and gendered public polices in Germany: In an edited volume and special issue project with Petra Ahrens and Sabine Lang (called‘Leading from Behind? Gender Equality in Germany During the Merkel Era’), we take stock of German gender equality in several policy fields after 16 years of governments led by Angela Merkel and her conservative Christian Democratic Party (CDU). We assess policy output and outcomes with a focus on internal power dynamics in Germany, as well as international and European Union (EU)-level pressures in the policy domains of political representation, LGBTI rights, migration, the labor market, and care. It inquires how policy measures introduced by conservative governments affect gender norms and gender culture, and if they ultimately lead to effective implementation and greater equality. The book shows how Merkel often led “from behind,” indirectly facilitating claims-making instead of proactively pushing them. This nonetheless contributed to transformative change in Germany, by Merkel not blocking policy proposals and allowing civil society groups and rival parties to push many progressive gender policies.