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The Geopolitics of Shaming: When Human Rights Pressure Works—and When It Backfires

The Geopolitics of Shaming: When Human Rights Pressure Works—and When It Backfires

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When a government violates the rights of its citizens, the international community can respond by exerting moral pressure and urging reform. Yet many of the most egregious violations appear to go unpunished. In many cases, shaming not only fails to induce compliance but also incites a backlash, provoking resistance and worsening human rights practices. 

The Geopolitics of Shaming presents a new theory on the strategic logic of international human rights enforcement, revealing why and how states punish violations in other countries, when shaming leads to an improvement in human rights conditions, and when it backfires. Drawing on a wide range of evidence—from large-scale cross-national data to original survey experiments and detailed case studies—Rochelle Terman shows how human rights shaming is a deeply political process, one that operates in and through strategic relationships. Arguing that preexisting geopolitical relationships condition both the causes and consequences of shaming in world politics, she shows how adversaries are quick to condemn human rights abuses but often provoke a counterproductive response, while friends and allies are the most effective shamers but can be reluctant to impose meaningful sanctions.

Upending conventional wisdom on the role of norms in world affairs, The Geopolitics of Shaming demonstrates that politicization is integral to—not a corruption of—the success of the global human rights project.


The Geopolitics of Shaming presents a new theory on the strategic logic of international human rights enforcement, revealing why and how states punish violations in other countries, when shaming leads to an improvement in human rights conditions, and when it backfires. Drawing on a wide range of evidence—from large-scale cross-national data to original survey experiments and detailed case studies—Rochelle Terman shows how human rights shaming is a deeply political process, one that operates in and through strategic relationships. Arguing that preexisting geopolitical relationships condition both the causes and consequences of shaming in world politics, she shows how adversaries are quick to condemn human rights abuses but often provoke a counterproductive response, while friends and allies are the most effective shamers but can be reluctant to impose meaningful sanctions.

Upending conventional wisdom on the role of norms in world affairs, The Geopolitics of Shaming demonstrates that politicization is integral to—not a corruption of—the success of the global human rights project.


Order The Geopolitics of Shaming from Princeton University Press


Rochelle Terman is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. She is also a faculty affiliate with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Center for the Study of Gender & Sexuality, and the Committee on International Relations, and the Program on Computational Social Science. 

She specializes in international relations, with an emphasis on international norms, human rights, and the Muslim world. Her first book, The Geopolitics of Shaming: When Human Rights Pressure Works—and When It Backfires, is based on her dissertation, which won the 2017 Merze Tate (formerly Helen Dwight Reid) Award for the best dissertation in international relations, law, and politics from the American Political Science Association.

She teaches computational social science at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, including Text as Data for Social Science and Computational Tools for Social Science.

She received her Ph.D. in Political Science with a designated emphasis in Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Before going to Chicago, she was a post-doc at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. 


Leslie Johns is a professor of political science and law at UCLA. She is also Associate Director of the Burkle Center for International Relations. Her research focuses on international law, organizations, and political economy. In 2022, Cambridge University Press published her newest book, Politics and International Law: Making, Breaking, and Upholding Global Rules. You can access related news stories on the book's Twitter account: @PoliticsIntlLaw. Her work appears in the American Political Science Review, International Organization, Journal of Conflict Resolution and the Journal of Politics. Her first book–Strengthening International Courts: The Hidden Costs of Legalization–was published in 2015 by the University of Michigan Press. She received the Michael Wallerstein Award for political economy in 2017. She is a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a former research fellow at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton University (2012-2013 and 2021-2022).

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Leslie Johns 0:11

Hello, everybody. Before we begin today, I have a few brief announcements. First of all audio and video recordings are being made today of today's talk. You'll be able to access these later on YouTube and as podcasts on various platforms. However, the audience will not be able to be seen or heard in these recordings. As you listen to today's talk as you if you have any questions that you'd like to submit to the speaker, please feel free to write them by using the Q&A portal that you can access by pushing the Q&A button at the bottom of your screen. Please be very brief and clear so that I can easily read them and pass them along to the speaker after her talk. Today's guest is Rochelle Terman. She's an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. Her substantive interests in political science are the study of international norms, gender and advocacy. And she has an area of focus in terms of the study of the Muslim world. She's really has a lot of background in California, I think we can call her a California girl because she has her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. And she also spent some time at Stanford University as a postdoctoral fellow, before moving to the University of Chicago where she works now. Today, she's going to present the presenting research from her first book, which just recently came out. It's called The Geopolitics of Shaming: When Human Rights Pressure Works and When It Backfires. So I'm gonna go ahead and ask her to join us, Rochelle, please come ahead and join us and introduce yourself to the audience. I'll go ahead and turn it over to you so you can share your research with our audience.

Rochelle Terman 2:10

Thank you so much, I apologize my [inaudible] with a bit of technical difficulties here.

Okay, sorry about that. Thank you for your patience. And thank you to Leslie and everyone at the center. I do indeed Miss California very much. So I sorry that I can't be there with you all in person today. But thank you for welcoming me digitally. And I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to share with you the highlights of my recent book, and I look forward to hearing your feedback. So bear with me while I share some slides.

All right. Hopefully you all can see that. Just to begin, let me give you a brief overview of what I will be discussing today. This project speaks to a literature on international norms and a debate about human rights, which for the last three or four decades, a lot of scholars have argued that international naming and shaming can effectively promote human rights conditions around the world. My research agenda challenges this conventional wisdom. In many cases, shaming not only fails to induce compliance, but insights of backlash, provoking resistance and worsening human rights practices. So the main questions that I seek to answer are when does shaming lead to an improvement in human rights conditions? And when does it backfire? And in cases where it does backfire? Why do actors do it in the first place? So to get you there, I'll first explain a little bit what I mean by human rights shaming. I'll then lay out what I call a relational theory of shaming that provides a framework to analyze both the causes and consequences. We'll first look at why international actors shame and how and then we'll ask how shaming influences the behavior of the target state. There are a few different kinds of evidence in the book. But today I'll highlight just one set of findings from a United Nations mechanism called the Universal Periodic Review, and then I'll close by talking about the larger implications. So throughout this talk, I use the terms naming and shaming, criticizing and normative pressure interchangeably to refer to the public expression of disapproval of specific actors. Typically, governments are violating or perceived violations. have appropriate conduct, like respecting human rights. So know that there are three important elements here: has to be public, there's an audience, there is a naming element and you're identifying specific violators, and there's a shaming outfit, with kind of the goal of embarrassing the target and to complying with the shamers demands. Shaming has attracted a lot of attention in international relations, or IR, when a government violates the rights of its citizens, the international community, including states, nongovernmental organizations, media outlets, so experts can respond by exerting moral pressure on that government from the outside. So shaming can be done by a number of different actors. But this project focuses on shaming between states, which states play an outsized role in world politics in general and norm enforcement in particular. So it's important to understand how this process unfolds between countries. Now, for IR scholars here you have two big questions about this process. First, why does states shame? Who do they shame about? What second, does shaming influence behavior? And on the second question, the consensus in many areas of IR has been that shaming is really one of the best tools that we have to combat human rights violations. The idea is that shaming imposes social costs, it kind of works on countries in the same in a similar way that it works on people. it embarrasses the targets reputation, legitimacy, and thus deters nor violating behavior. It can also it at least when it comes to international politics, it could mobilize domestic opposition in the target state, which puts pressure on policymakers kind of from below. So there are different mechanisms here, but they all tend to point to shaming being effective. On the other hand, many people have begun to question that conventional wisdom. And the critical insight here is that states can and do resist shaming pressures in creative and important ways. And in some cases, they can even double down or intensify violations. For example, after you've gotten to Nigeria, pass laws to criminalize homosexuality in 2014, some reporters said that there was a spike in violations against LGBT people. That's just one example. So there are all sorts of really important policy questions here. But what I'm really interested in is the empirical puzzle. Why does shaming result in compliance in some countries in some cases, and resistance and others?

So I'm now going to lay out what I call a relational theory of shaming that provides a framework to help us understand those questions. And the core insight of a Relational Approach is that we can't understand social sanctions like shaming without appreciating the specific relational context in which it occurs. So what do I mean by relational context? It's pretty simple. states rely on other actors for things that they care about. Those things could be material in nature, security trade, they could also rely on others for intangible benefits, things like status, things like esteem or recognition. The important point is that they get these things through a relationship. And because states value those relationships and want to maintain them, they try to avoid alienating their partners and undermining their relationship. So there are a lot of contingencies. But in general, the key point is that differences in the nature and strength of relational ties will affect both the onset and the effects of international shaming. In other words, should relationships moderate the actions of both shamer and target? So let's dig a little deeper into how this works. Let's think about the decision making of countries when they're thinking about potentially shaming governments for perceived human rights violations. Why do states decide to shame other countries or decide not to? Well, it's kind of surprising that states would shame other countries at all, if you think about it, because the act of of sanctioning is potentially costly. You know, I might avoid confronting someone that I see littering in the park, for example, because I'm scared of how they're going to react. And that's especially true in world politics. Think about when the United States considered shaming Saudi Arabia over the death of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. The Trump administration was very reluctant to do that. And that's because human rights are a touchy subject. And Saudi Arabia is an important US ally and didn't appreciate being criticized in that area. Saudi Arabia, in fact, threatened to retaliate economically, if the United States publicly criticized it. So the point is that shaming risks blowback back. And those kinds of what I call enforcement costs lead to the temptation to kind of ignore the problem. And freeride kind of ignore prob the problem with the hopes that somebody else is going to address it. And yet, we still see shaming happening all the time. And that's because those costs can be overcome by three call three kinds of benefits shaming benefits. So the first kind of benefit is pretty straightforward. It comes from just deterring unwanted behavior and defending a preferred norm. So I might prefer the anti littering norm, I don't like to be surrounded by trash. So maybe I'll risk it to yell at my neighbor when I find her littering because I want her to stop. That said, the logic of these behavioral rewards isn't totally satisfying. When it comes to human rights, political leaders may not necessarily have a real genuine interest in the human rights practices of other countries. And that might be because human rights benefit people in other countries, right. So the important point is that behavioral change is important. But it's not the only goal that actors pursue when they're shaming norm violations. There are two other kinds of benefits. And unlike the first type, the motives that I'm about to discuss are not behavioral, but social in nature. That is actors shame, not because they necessarily think that shaming is going to change the targets behavior, but because they expect to accrue some social rewards for publicly enforcing norms. So the first of these pertain to something that's called meta norms or meta norms are, in effect, the norm that demand the enforcement of norms through social pressure to punish violators of social norms. So here, actors will bear whatever cost of shaming others in order to signal that they themselves abide by the rules and are thus good, reputable, trustworthy, and so on. Some people refer to this colloquially as like virtue, virtue signaling. So meta norms operate at the individual, excuse me, at the international level as well. Governments have to usually pay lip service to human rights discourse, if they want to be seen as legitimate. And one way to do that is by shaming other countries for their human rights preferences, excuse me, their human rights performance. And in doing that political leaders will appease audiences, especially domestic audiences who are genuinely committed to human rights. And then finally, shamers can benefit by stigmatizing the target, we might want to stigmatize people that we're competing against that we have an adversarial relationship with that belong to some enemy outgroup. In the international realm, leaders often denounce human rights violations, not because they necessarily care about human rights, but because they want to inflict some kind of political damage on foreign adversaries in order to increase their own power. And we see that kind of weaponized shaming all the time. Think about the Cold War, for example, the United States advertising the human rights abuses, the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union advertising human rights abuses of the United States, you shame because you want to hurt the target. So once we consider those two social motivations, it's no longer puzzling why states would choose to enforce norms despite the cost. And that's because they're benefiting directly from the very act of sanctioning to other implications are really important implications follow from this framework. First, shaming can be rational, it can make sense even when it's not expected to result in compliance. And that's because compliance is often not the primary goal, if your goal is to stigmatize your opponent. For example, weaponized shaming, you might actually want the target to continue violating, because it provides additional opportunities for you to stigmatize them. So it makes perfect sense why leaders would continue to shame even if their efforts fail to work work meaning to change behavior. Second, states tend to shame their rivals or adversaries or enemies more often and more harshly than they do, their friends, their partners and their allies. Why? Because the costs and benefits of shaming are conditional on the relationship between shamer and target. Shaming a rival is less costly and more rewarding than shaming a friend. Typically, states will only criticize their friends when they hold a very strong preference for the norm that they're enforcing and even then they're going to be careful, they're going to take steps to avoid a super negative reaction because they want to maintain that value, partnership and contract As leaders will condemn rivals, regardless of genuine normative beliefs, because doing so provides a strategic advantage. And as a result, states shame their rivals in particularly stigmatizing sensationalist and inflammatory weights. Understanding when and how act or shame is important because different kinds of social pressure will lead to different outcomes. So let's now take a look at the target state to ask how shaming affects behavior.

The key point here is that the effects of shaming are also conditional on the relationship between the source and the target shaming coming from a strict true strategic partner, or friend. It's more costly, and it's more credible. There are a few incentives to criticize your friends, right. So shaming in this case serves as a credible signal reflecting the critics preferences of a particular norm. And the target is going to want to maintain that relationship so they're more likely to take criticism seriously and comply. Shaming firm rivals on the other hand is less costly, there's no relationship to protect, there's no valued relationship to protect. So there are few incentives to make the shamer happy by complying with their demands. Plus accusations from adversaries are often less credible. They're seen as a cynical attempt to sell you the targets reputation. So all of that allows the target to easily deny and reject accusations. It can even be rational and make sense in this case, to double down in defiance of shaming. Why? Because if relevant audiences like the domestic public and the target state also hate the shamer then violating their norms, generates tangible rewards, such as legitimacy. And this is especially true in hyper polarized environments. Let me make an analogy to interpersonal shaming for a moment. Imagine for example, a Trump supporter getting kicked out of a restaurant for wearing MAGA hat and then bolstering excuse me boasting about it to other Trump supporters. And it's not just Republicans or conservatives, right? I'm, I'm in Hyde Park. And most of the people around here are liberal left wing leaning. So if a conservative commentator, you know, Ted Cruz or somebody tomorrow, puts me on blast on Twitter and says, you know, shame on you, Rochelle Terman for violating conservative norms, that would be the best thing to ever happen to me, in some ways. It wouldn't be very damaging at all, it would give me an incredible amount of street cred. So the point is that shaming isn't always costly. And in fact, outgroup shaming generates real and tangible rewards in the form of a group honor and status. And we see this happening in world politics a lot. foreign pressure sparks a nationalist reaction in the target state. People typically resent being told what to do, especially by adversarial or historically adversarial foreign actors like former colonizers and respond very defensively. So in light of that reaction, leaders are typically rewarded for standing up to international pressure, and defending the nation against this perceived domination. That's what some people thought happened in Uganda, that President Museveni who reportedly didn't support this easy anti homosexuality bills in their extreme forms and wanted a more moderate solution. But he was backed into a corner once a lot of Western countries started shaming Uganda. And he couldn't kill the bill, at least publicly, in order to defend his own legitimacy at home. So in those situations, shaming isn't simply an effective but counterproductive by encouraging defiance of international norms. So let me just take a quick minute here to review. So far, I've explained that shaming is quintessentially a relational process, it relies on the relationship between shamer and target. And in the absence of that relationship, shaming will fail. And that's especially true when pressure emanates from a rival or an adversary. So I'm gonna shift gears now and talk about an empirical aspect of the project. So as I mentioned, I draw from multiple sources of evidence in the book but today I'll highlight one set of findings from the United Nations, specifically from a process called the Universal Periodic Review, or UPR. So the key finding here is that interstate shaming on human rights is deeply and profoundly affected by strategic and geopolitical relationships. Let me take a minute to explain what the UPR is. It's a process that's conducted by the UN Human Rights Council to periodically review the human rights records of all UN member states. And the way that it works is through peer review. Governments evaluate each other's human rights record and offer feedback in the form of specific recommendations. So in this example, that you see here, Australia recommended to Antigua and Barbuda to improve conditions in Antigua and Barbuda's prisons and detention facilities. States under review, then have to publicly decide whether or not to accept each recommendation that it receives. If you accept the recommendation, you think it's legitimate, if you reject the recommendation, you're saying that this is not legitimate, and we are under no obligation to follow it. So the UPR is a neat laboratory for the study of international shaming. It covers all UN member countries and provides really granular data. In each observation, we have information about the shamer, the target, the issue that's at stake. So whether it's about women's rights, or the death penalty, or whatever, and also how severe that recommendation is. Some recommendations are really lax, they're very permissive. They're not really shaming at all, and others are very specific and very demanding and very harsh. So higher numbers on that severity column that you see represents harsher shaming. And then we also know how the target responded; that is whether it accepted or rejected each recommendation. So I collected data from all recommendations using the first two cycles of the UPR from 2018 to 2016. And during that time, each UN member country was reviewed twice. And using statistical modeling, with a number of controls, I wanted to understand, to examine the role of strategic relationships in that process. That is how does the dyadic relationship between shamer and target affect their interaction in the UPR, and I focus on three aspects of a strategic relationship. Geopolitical affinity, using votes from the UN voting, this kind of measures how similar or distant countries are, ideologically. The second is a formal military alliance. And then third is a material dependence, specifically the exchange of arms and aid. And as it turns out, strategic relationships, in fact do play an important role in both the causes and the consequences of interstate shaming. So, in the first place, states tend to go easier on their friends, okay, states tend to go easier on their friends, they are less likely to demand strong remedial actions when reviewing a geopolitical ally, all else equal. So the average severity is lower, of recommendations between friends. And they also tend to avoid highly sensitive topics. That is those topics that really threaten the target regime, that are politically sensitive and damaging, like torture, for example, like extra judicial killing. When shaming adversaries, countries tend to gravitate to those super sensitive issues, okay having to do with civil political rights, physical integrity. Meanwhile, states tend to review their friends on things that are more digestible, they tend to address positive rights, like the right to development and the right to health, the protection of vulnerable groups from abuses in the private sphere. And all of those abuses don't implicate the state, it's not the state that's necessarily violating the rights of trafficked women, for example. And so when shaming a friend, you're more likely to gravitate towards those safer and those more easily digestible topics. So that's the first findings, that states tend to go easier on their geopolitical friends. Second finding is that when friends do criticize, their recommendations are accepted, more often than substantively identical recommendations that are coming from adversaries. In other words, if I'm a state under review, and I get two recommendations, one from a friend, one from an adversary, and they say the exact same thing, I'm more likely to accept the recommendation coming from a friend. And that's after controlling for the content of the recommendation. So in other words, when deciding how to respond to shaming the critic matters, just as much as the criticism.

So to wrap up, what I'm trying to do in this project is to rethink the politics of naming and shaming. Shaming is a deeply political process and operates in and through strategic relationships. What we have is a system in which 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 in the first place. So shaming is most common in situations where it's least likely to be effective. And shaming is most effective in situations where it's least likely to occur. That's not to say that shaming is always counterproductive, right? My theory claims that shaming has divergent effects, depending on the conditions that emerge from the interaction between shamer and target. Basically, when shaming is coming from a friend, even though it's rare, it is more likely to be effective, precisely because it hinges and uses, leverages that geopolitical relationship. So to the extent that international pressure works, some of the time, it actually hinges on the geopolitical leverage that's afforded by a politicized system. In other words, some people might look at this and say, what we need is to get politics out of the system to try to have a more neutral and unbiased application of international law. But what I have found is that in order to be effective, you need that leverage that's afforded by a politicized system, you need that political will. So the very forces that drive backlash to human rights shaming, which are those power politics, and strategic interests, are the very same that secure positive change. I'll leave it there. And thanks, again for listening. And I really look forward to hearing your questions.

Leslie Johns 27:39

Hey, thanks so much. That's a really great presentation. I, you know, obviously, there's, you know, I read the book, and there, there's so much richness to the book. There's a lot in the book, but I thought you did a really great job of boiling down the complexity into an argument that kind of made sense in a in a limited, that did make sense, excuse me, I didn't mean to say it kind of made sense, to a shortened period of time. So thank you so much Rochelle. So I guess, as a reminder to our audience, please do take a moment, collect your thoughts and type up your questions for Rochelle by using the q&a button at the bottom of your screen. But the great thing about being the host of the talk is I get to start by asking my own questions of Rochelle. And I wanted to start with just a general one for the sake of the graduate students in the audience. Because this is Rochelle's first book, it came out of her dissertation. And so and I think it's a great project. You know, it's very compelling book, very compelling project. So for the sake of the graduate students in the audience, I wanted to ask Rochelle, a question I often do have young authors, which is, how did you become interested in this topic? What made you choose this as your first big project? You know, maybe give some insight into how you got started as a young scholar, I think that's really inspiring for our graduate students to hear. And please feel free to talk about mistakes you may have made. I think they find that really reassuring that that not everything comes fully baked out of the oven. So so please share.

Rochelle Terman 29:27

Yeah, well, if Yeah, if we want to talk about my mistakes, we would be here all day. Because it Yeah, it really it was a hard road some of the time. And I didn't always think that I was going to get to the finish line. So yeah, I don't know if I could, you know, offer some hope, I suppose. But I did my undergraduate degree in political science actually at the University of Chicago,

Leslie Johns 29:58

Oh, you made a full circle

Rochelle Terman 30:00

Yeah, yeah, we've just a somewhat, I think unique department, at least at the time, because I was very influenced by political theory. And I did a lot of work on, I was actually interested in women's rights and gender in the Middle East. And I was involved in human rights work. So I was working for a human rights organization that focused on women's rights in Muslim majority countries and in Muslim contexts and worked for that organization; started working for them when I was undergrad, worked for them after I graduated college. And before I went to grad school, and even like continued being involved, once I was in graduate school, and that organization and others like it, was very familiar with the tactic of naming and shaming from an activist side of things. And I, once I went to graduate school, and started reading the canonical literature that I'm sure many of your graduate students have been exposed to, I suppose I noticed a disconnect between some of the theories and my experience and my lived experience as an activist, where we saw that human rights shaming didn't always work that sometimes it was quite counterproductive. And we are partners for local organizations in some of these countries actually have to ask Western women's rights groups to stop, stop sending letters, stop, you know, advocating on behalf of us, because you're making the situation worse, or making our jobs harder, you know, through some of these mechanisms. And I didn't see, at least at the time, a whole lot of theorisation about that. And you know, that's not to say that there wasn't discussion about unsuccessful shaming, or backlash. But I think that there was, I guess, I saw an opportunity for richer theorisation, and more work on it. And so I think I also benefited from taking classes outside of my department and things like this, I think this is where you'd maybe start to see connections that haven't been made, either between literature's or between disciplines, or between the just the academic side of things and your personal lived experience side of things. And I, this, the project has obviously taken, has evolved over time, and has taken a lot of twists and turns. But that it probably was like my kind of first idea for a dissertation project. My main difficulty was just that I didn't know how to, you know, write a book, basically, when you're, you know, third year graduate student. So it took a lot of experimentation, it took a lot of failures. And I got, I suppose, you know, maybe lucky, or unlucky, depending on how you think about it, that in 2016, you know, Trump was elected, Brexit happened, and a lot of people were talking about backlash to the international liberal order. I couldn't have foreseen that happening. But so I do think that something that I could talk about the things that I did wrong all day long, but I think one thing that I'm glad that I did, was to pick a topic that I myself was interested in, kind of regardless of what people and the news were talking about, or what I thought or could predict, like would be fashionable, you know, or of interest. Obviously, you want to pick a topic that other people are interested in, you have interlocutors, but unless you yourself are kind of personally invested in the project, it's going to be hard to work on it every day. Yeah, pretenders.

Leslie Johns 34:22

Great advice. And, and you know, everyone finds the first book to be, you know, a seemingly dauntless task, right? But, but, you know, as my advisor told me, the second book is much easier. And then the third book is as easy as pie, you know, you know, which I haven't written my third book, but I definitely found the second book easier, you know, so, hopefully, if I get around to writing a third, it'll be easy as pie. You know, one thing that I found really interesting about the book is, you know, the theory I felt was so well constructed and so well specified, and I don't really remember at any point in the book that you clearly sort of specified what your epistemology or you know, like what your paradigm was, I don't feel like you really needed to. But, you know, I come from a rational choice background, and I do math and game theory. And like, I totally understood, you know, what was I knew how to write a model that showed what your theory was doing, right. And so, you know, it was pretty clear to me that, like you were doing a model of information, revelation. And, you know, this was a story about private information, which you are clear about in the book. But, you know, one thing I wanted to push you a little bit about in the, in the, in our discussion is, you know, in order for, like this story to work, you know, in order for, like you talked about, you know, US sends a signal of shaming Saudi Arabia about Jamal Khashoggi, right, in order for that signal of shame to matter to other people. Like, it has to be the case that like the US knows something, has some private information about what Saudi Arabia did to Jamal Khashoggi, right in order for that shame to have meaning that other people care about. And you're very clear about this in the book, right? Even though you didn't have time to go into it in the presentation. But I guess I'm wondering, you know, we see a lot of examples, like in the news, like, I can't help not thinking about Gaza, because it's in the news every day right now, where, you know, maybe a lot of countries that are going around and issuing public statements, you know, about one side or the other, don't necessarily have intelligence agencies and don't necessarily have a lot of public information, private information. And so how do we think about shame in that context? Where, right, maybe, maybe it really is countries making statements about values? Like we don't like what you're doing, but maybe we don't have private information about where the hostages are? Or how many people are starving. Right? And so how, think about that kind of shame, which is really, I think, maybe a different thing than what you're talking about in the book. Yeah.

Rochelle Terman 37:26

That's, that's a great question. And I probably wasn't actually too clear about this in the book, or maybe I could have done better

Leslie Johns 37:39

Maybe that's the next book, yeah, because like homosexuality examples, too, are more of that genre. It's a statement about values rather than Yeah. Yeah. Because,

Rochelle Terman 37:49

You know, I don't think that I, I have to assume that the source of shaming has any private information. And, okay, I don't think so. Because that is precisely for the reasons that you mentioned that there are almost always real ambiguities around the facts, or around the legality of certain practices. And it's precisely in those ambiguities that provide degrees of flexibility in how different actors respond. So it's one thing if something is so undeniably clear, that it is very difficult to deny or to justify, or to dissemble or to obfuscate. But that rarely happens, and more often is the case, that there are ambiguities and ambivalence around what the actual facts of the case are, or the norms that underlie them. And for that reason, states will take any opportunity to shame an adversary, even when the evidence is scarce, right, even when the accusations are not credible, they will, you know, martial whatever, you know, information credible or not, that they need to actually just make any kind of accusation because there are no cost to them and doing that, and it could potentially target the adversary's reputation. And by the same token, states require a very, very high degree of certainty, before shaming a friend. Look at you know, for example, the United States posture towards Israel versus towards Ukraine, you know, for example, or, or posture towards Saudi Arabia, and our posture towards Iran. I mean, these are these were the accusations of, you know, double standards or hypocrisy come from and it's not the United States that is an outlier here. It's that this is a result of a system in which, if there's any ambiguity at all states will use that as a way to avoid shaming their friends and allies. Okay, and as more and more clarity, so the bar, you can think about it, like the bar of evidence needs to be really, really high for states to criticize a friend or ally, and it needs to be kind of undeniable. But it says any Yeah, go ahead. No, no, please go ahead. No,

Leslie Johns 40:37

it seems to me that there's something fundamentally different between I know, you killed a dissident, right, that seems to me like, I have a piece of private information that I'm going to share with others, versus I think that it's wrong to not let gay people get married. Right. One is fundamentally like a statement about information that I'm going to share. Versus one is a statement about, like, I have a certain set of values that, like my saying, I think gay people should be able to get married or whatever, is like, I'm not revealing anything, any information to other people by making a statement? Right, it just seems to me that that there's maybe there are different types of shaming. Right. And maybe there is still this difference of we treat friends and allies different. Right. But it seems to me maybe there are different mechanisms that that are going on. One is about signaling information. And maybe one I don't know, but it just seems to me like, there are different types of logics that that could be going on. And these different things. Yeah,

Rochelle Terman 41:55

I think that's, that's very fair. And I think the way that I see it is that if shaming ever has an impact. And it can go through different mechanisms. But at the end of the day, you're going to change your behavior in order to protect your interests. And oftentimes, those interests come from relationships, in order to so to the extent that you're going to reform your behavior at all, is going to either please your international alliances, or to please your from domestic pressure. And so then the question becomes how do you get those actors to actually threatened those relational goods in the first place? And whether or it's there is definitely a component of that credibility of information in the mechanism? Because states would, because they have no incentive to lie and make accusations up. Once we, if we do come out and shame Saudi Arabia, or, or, or shame Israel for Gaza. It really tells people that United States has, you know, is it that this thing actually happened. You know, that the accusations are credible. What how does that how that actually affects, you know, by what mechanism? Do values or statement about values come into play? Im gonna have to think about that more.

Leslie Johns 43:37

Well, we're already at one fifteen, I should probably look at some of the questions that people sent in and not like, be such a hog of, you know, of claiming all your time. So let me get out my fancy glasses. Because definitely, people are interested. So in your book, do you mainly observe state actors who shame or also NGOs, media and activist groups who may shame more often or less based on different conditions in politics? So I know you mainly focus, in your empirical analysis, on states, right. But obviously, like, there are tons of shaming by lots of different people, right? I don't know I shouldn't answer for you.

Rochelle Terman 44:21

No, no, you're absolutely right. Yeah. So I focus, I focus on interactions between states. But obviously, non governmental organizations, activists play an important part in this and I saw this in fact, like when I was an activist, when when activists shame, one of the things that they're trying to do is to get those meta norm pressures going, meaning to try to pressure the United States or other Western countries to actually, you know, put pressure on the target regime. So I'm thinking of like Iran, for example, I did a case study in the book of Iran. And what a lot of activists did is they yes, they shamed Iran directly. But they also tried to put pressure on Western governments and governments in Brazil and some other places, to then, you know, put political- use their political leverage in Iran. And I think actually, many of the theoretical insights could actually apply to NGOs, as well, like stigmatized shaming, and things like that.

Leslie Johns 45:31

So one of our audience members asked about more modern technologies. They mentioned specifically social media and the ability of citizens to see more information, and whether that has affected either sort of the incidence of shaming or the way that shaming works.

Rochelle Terman 45:52

Yeah, this is still obviously a very big question. And it's a salient question. And it's going to become more and more salient. I think one thing that is interesting, at least in my lifetime, is that when I was in college and working for these organizations, social media just started to become a tool. This was like during, and in grad school, this was like during the era of the Arab Spring, and there was a lot of optimism around the use of social media, to mobilize publics against violations and against autocrats. And I think a lot of that optimism has dwindled. In the last, you know, my own trajectory has become like super optimistic, and then I was more neutral, you know, and then now I'm a little bit more pessimistic, I think about the use of modern technology and social media. And I think that's probably for two reasons. The first is that there are a lot of credibility issues, when it comes to accusations that become viral on social media. And the second is because states do resist outside pressure through a number of means, and one of the means that they do that is to to try to create kind of counter pressure campaigns. So Russia will create bots, for example, to counteract any kind of anti Russia speech on social media platforms. And so those tools can not only be a tool for the pro human rights side, I would say, but also in the service of status quo kind of autocrats as well.

Leslie Johns 47:41

Yeah. So that that kind of goes to one of the first questions that came in is, do you think that there are any leaders who truly do not care about shame, and they listed specifically Trump and Putin? It says, shame does not seem to deter them? Or do you think that may just be an act because people like Putin do have these like bot campaigns to try to fight against it? Do you think it's just artifice, that maybe Putin really does care? And seems to be trying to fight back against that type of stuff?

Rochelle Terman 48:17

So this question is interesting, because I'm thinking about the word shame. And shame is, shame is an emotion, ultimately, right. And a lot of social scientist kind of get a little, a little twitchy when we're kind of talking about the emotions of leaders, because we can't– as shame emotions as motives– because we can't get in the head of people and figure out like, how they really feel what they really do. So, and there are certainly a lot of excellent scholars that that work on that and on individual in psychology, but for me, at least, it it's less important, what individuals are feeling. And it's more about their kind of external incentives and shaming, even though it is connected with the feeling of shame, it doesn't actually require anyone to internalize the norm that is being advocated for so

Leslie Johns 49:24

That's a really important point, right, because it's really just focused on changing the behavior, right?

Rochelle Terman 49:29

That's right. And I and at least what I try to show on the book is that even the shamers don't actually have to have internalized the norm that they're supposedly advocating for. We can have a situation in which like no one, or the shamer or the target feels or cares about human rights, for example, or feels, you know any which way. It's and you see even in the interpersonal realm. Remember reading Anthropology of students that come from low class backgrounds, and then they go to private schools, and they're shamed for the way they talk and their accent. And they change their behavior, even though they haven't, it's not like they internalize the way they talked was wrong. It's really just that if you want to maintain any kind of social standing, or if you care about these social sanctions, these social reactions, which people do for all sorts of material and non material reasons, then shaming is going to have an effect on you. So with Trump and Putin, one of the kind of interesting things is that oftentimes, shaming at least, especially with Trump is not costly at all. It's, it's rewarding. The example that I brought up about the Trump supporter getting kicked out of a MAGA, or excuse me getting kicked out of a restaurant for wearing a MAGA hat. I mean, I think it oftentimes, shaming when it's coming, especially ones coming from the left, plays right into their strategy of riling up their base in town generating that defiant reaction. So I think even with Putin and Trump, it really depends on where the shame is coming from. And if it's coming from their supposed enemies or the other side, I think not only will it be ineffective, but it will be counterproductive.

Leslie Johns 51:21

Okay. So, obviously, the book project focuses on interactions between states. But have you thought at all about, you know, how you might extend the theory to think about shaming by organizations like the UN, which, you know, some political scientists would say, oh, it's neutral and independent. Others would say, no, it's just a collection of states working together through voting power. Do you have any interest in going there with this project? Or, or is it just too much?

Rochelle Terman 52:01

Yeah, no, I mean, some, a lot of haven't seen it from from the Universal Periodic Review, which is the United Nations mechanism. I think one thing, that's, that's, I think it's really just the core of how shaming works. And you know, whether it's through individuals, or whether it works through in the international realm, is that it's a kind of punishment that comes from a decentralized peer to peer pathway, as opposed to a centralized authority. That's really what shaming is, is that it, It relies on the voluntary discretion of other actors about how they're going to respond to a certain kind of behavior, as opposed to centralized authority, like the, like a domestic government. And so even in the United Nations, where there's a plethora of mechanisms and procedures and institutions and a lot of different kinds of actors. I think, ultimately, at the end of the day, we lack a centralized authority or police force or parliament that has universal acceptance and any kind of punishment in the international realm, even if it goes to the United Nations relies on the voluntary discretion of states. So for example, it like in the ICJ

Leslie Johns 53:28

You're thinking of it through the enforcement perspective?

Rochelle Terman 53:32

Yes, yes. Thank you. Okay. Sorry.

Leslie Johns 53:34

I just want to be clear. Okay. Because you're kind of bearing an assumption there. Okay. Yeah. Okay. Sorry. Sorry. ICJ Yes.

Rochelle Terman 53:43

Sure. So, even in the ICJ where there are other there's, the whole kind of legal mechanism at play, at the end of the day, Israel can decide whether or not it has to comply, you know, because there are there's that kind of lacks that enforcement mechanism. So I think like, at least when it comes to the United Nations, probably I'm curious if the questioner has a specific like mechanism in mind. But when it comes to these types, like the Human Rights Council, or the United Nations General Assembly, the important part of the process, there are the voluntary discretion of individual states about whether or not to criticize or condemn a violation.

Leslie Johns 54:34

Yeah, certainly. Yeah. The Universal Periodic Review, you know, I imagine the person who wrote in might have in mind maybe something like a Special Rapporteur or the you okay, oh, just like an independent expert. I'm just projecting here, right? Although even those people the question is just like, how is that person chosen? You know, those people nominally have some degree of decision making independence. But obviously there's a Yeah, remember regarding how those people are chosen, right?

Rochelle Terman 55:05

Yeah, I remember working for a UN Special Rapporteur, when I was in graduate school just doing some kind of consultancy work. But yeah, what one question is how they're selected, but also the question going back to your point Leslie is, how do they actually have an effect? By what mechanism would a Special Rapporteur on torture, for example, actually change people's behavior?

Leslie Johns 55:34

You're so enforcement oriented, I'm shocked.

Rochelle Terman 55:36

Well, I it I grant a little bit when you were talking earlier about the theory and different kinds of mechanisms, because I am teaching the constructivism to my students right now. And we're kind of reading the canon and I think I probably have more in common like epistologically or maybe like ontologically or my general vibe and framework of how I see the world with like a John Mearsheimer maybe more.

Leslie Johns 55:39

Well, I mean, you're. But I've never met someone who lists their first interest as being norms. Who's, who's talked so much about enforcement. I'm like, shocked. No, I think it's great. I think it's great, but I'm just I'm very surprised. Yeah.

Rochelle Terman 56:26

Well, I got a lot of inspiration from the sociological literature. Yeah, really, almost like classic work, Goffman. You know, Bourdieu you even is very strategically oriented. Yeah, even if we're in the, Bourdieu, like in a critical theory, tradition is still kind of thinking about strategies, cost benefits, enforcement. So maybe that rubbed off on me, or maybe,

Leslie Johns 56:52

I guess like Chicago, like found themselves in norms theorist, you know, so I think.

Rochelle Terman 57:01

Yeah, the undergrad, you know, the legacy of my undergrad experience here. Like John Mearsheimer was my first political science class that I ever took. Yeah, maybe that kind of

Leslie Johns 57:10

It is somewhat amusing. Like, do you hang out with like real norms people ever?

Rochelle Terman 57:17

Um, you'd have to probably specify who real norms people

Leslie Johns 57:21

like [unintelligable] Martha Fenimore?

Rochelle Terman 57:25

Yeah. I mean, Martha, Martha Fillmore and Ben Simmons.

Leslie Johns 57:28

I wouldn't put Ben Simmons in that category, no? Yeah,

Rochelle Terman 57:33

yeah, well, at least Martha was in my, my book, manuscript workshop and had some, you know, challenging, of course. But

Leslie Johns 57:42

I don't mean to give you a hard time. I'm just teasing you a little bit. So

Rochelle Terman 57:45

Oh, no, it's fine.

Leslie Johns 57:48

I should probably shouldn't tease you until you get tenure, though. I don't need to. I don't mean to be mean. Yeah, I know. I know. When I was a junior scholar. I was always so scared anytime someone teased me so. Well, no, we are at 1:30. So so thank you so much for sharing your work with us. This has been so great. Hopefully our audience had as much fun as I did. And hopefully you had to good time too. It's really wonderful to see this project fully blossom. I've definitely been following it and you know, from afar for a long time. So thank you so much. It's great to see it in its full glory. So for those of you in the audience, we will be having another talk in two weeks with some guests from from Georgetown and I hope that you're able to join us keep an eye on your email or go to the Burkle web page for details about the date and place. And thank you again, Rochelle for joining us and I will see the rest of you shortly in two weeks. Okay. Goodbye, everybody. Bye bye.

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