Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Transnational Advocacy: New Spaces, New Voices

Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Transnational Advocacy: New Spaces, New Voices

Article excerpt

Abstract

There are many examples today of transnational advocacy groups, and much scholarship to identify how their growing presence contributes to understanding new and complex forms of global governance. This article seeks to present a corrective to the general trend to regard the "transnational" as a specific site of political engagement, and instead it draws principally on the work of Henri Lefebvre and scholarship from Human Geography to find ways to examine transnational advocacy as the ongoing process resulting from intersecting and diverse experiences of individuals and groups. In so doing, it aims further to redefine the spatiality of activism, by questioning how advocates determine the physical borders within which they function alongside those cognitive borders to which they attach themselves, and how those very borders are constantly redefined by their interactions. Using illustrative examples from Asia, this article proposes the need to rethink the transnational along three intersecting dimensions.

Keywords

transnational advocacy group, space, scales, Lefebvre

[E]ach new form of political power ... introduces its own particular way of partitioning space, its own particular administrative classification of discourses about space and about things and people in space. (1)

Introduction

There arc many examples of transnational activist groups around the world today that, by definition, come together to form coalitions across state boundaries. However, while these groups share a dc facto transborder membership, they have diverse aims and objectives, differentiated relations with states and international institutions, and a variety of understandings about the nature and role of civil activism. Indeed, there are so many terms used to cover these kinds of activities that one may be forgiven for believing that they contain anything and anyone, both including and excluding the formal parameters of the state. Armstrong et al. demonstrate the diversity of such groups: from the thirty-member East African Communities' Organization for Management of Lake Victoria Resources; and the Latin American Labor Forum, which started in 1995 when the regional federation of labor unions began to organize parallel conferences to Free Trade Area of the Americas ministerial meetings and other summits; to the Israel-Palestine Peace non-governmental organizations (NGO) Forum and Alliance for Middle East Peace, which are umbrella organizations seeking to create new agendas to explore alternative means for securing peace. (2)

This article seeks to present a corrective to the general trend to regard "the transnational" as a specific site of political engagement, drawing instead principally on the work of Henri Lefebvre and scholarship from Human Geography to find ways to elucidate those "social (spatial) practices" that go to make up the transnational. (3) In order to illustrate how we might refine our understanding of the transnational, it offers brief illustrations from Asia showing how transnational activist groups are developing there. The principal aim of the analysis is to find a way to demarcate the nature of the space inhabited by what we too easily term the transnational, and to represent it as the ongoing process resulting from intersecting and diverse experiences of individuals and groups. In so doing, it aims further to redefine the spatiality of activism, by questioning how advocates determine the physical borders within which they function alongside those cognitive borders to which they attach themselves, and how those very borders are constantly redefined by their interactions. This article challenges prevailing wisdom that regards the space inhabited by the transnational as a crossroads comprising vertical relations with the state and suprastrate, and horizontal relations with other "similar" actor-sets. Instead, it proposes the need to rethink the transnational along three intersecting dimensions, as highlighted by Marston, Jones, and Woodward: interactive practices; the significance of place; and the discourse of collectivity. …

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