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Mobilising and constraining: the dynamics of human rights discourse in two Mexican social movements

Citation: Knox, Rupert (2022) Mobilising and constraining: the dynamics of human rights discourse in two Mexican social movements. International Journal of Human Rights .

Mobilising human rights discourse in pursuit of justice by local social movements is often treated as a straightforward process. However, social movement practice is rooted in domestic socio- political culture, the ability to affectively engage publics and envision ‘political horizons’. Human rights discourse is often deployed in this process, but the dynamics involved have both enabling and constraining features which movement participants exploit, negotiate and disagree over. This article explores scholarship on human rights, social movements and democracy to examine these dynamics through the reflections of participants in two recent social mobilisations in Mexico: the Movement for Peace and Justice with Dignity and Ayotzinapa 43. Both movements arose in response to abuses and impunity in the context of spiralling state and non-state actor violence and corruption in Mexico, but also challenged the dominant political narratives of Mexico’s democratic development. They focused on the justice demands of victims, but also involved plural groups, many hoping for wider change. Human rights discourse featured in each movement, but they were not human rights movements, raising important questions about how human rights discourse is understood, made meaningful but also kept in check as part of sustaining contentious collective action.

Creators: Knox, Rupert and
Official URL:
Subjects: Culture, Language & Literature
Human Rights & Development Studies
Latin American Studies
Sociology & Anthropology
Keywords: Human Rights Mexico Social movements Disappearances Democracy
Divisions: Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies
  • 27 October 2022 (accepted)
  • 8 November 2022 (published)


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