Law from below: Women's human rights and social movements in New York City

Sally Engle Merry, Peggy Levitt, Mihaela Şerban Rosen, Diana H. Yoon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Despite the ambivalent history of the domestic application of human rights in the United States, human rights increasingly offer important resources for American grassroots activists. Within the constraints of U.S. policy toward human rights, they provide social movements a kind of global law " from below": a form of cosmopolitan law that subalterns can use to challenge their subordinate position. Using a case study from New York City, we argue that in certain contexts, human rights can provide important political resources to U.S. social movements. However, they do so in a diffuse way far from the formal system of human rights law. Instead, activists adopt some of the broader social justice ideas and strategies embedded within human rights practice.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)101-128
    Number of pages28
    JournalLaw and Society Review
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Mar 2010

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Law


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