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Abstract

This thesis explores how peasant and indigenous women activists’ claims related to the human right to land and territory travel between different scales of contentious politics; how these demands become visible in the transnational scale; and how such notions turn (or not) into established legal knowledge. At the local scale, it focuses on the department of Nariño, situated in southwestern Colombia. At the transnational level, it centers on advocacy practices at the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The thesis underscores the importance of historical genealogies of rights claims, especially at the local level, and it underlines how human rights ideas circulate, not only down-streamed to the grassroots but also moving upward from local experiences to international standard-setting scenarios. It introduces the concept of horizontal transduction to refer to the circulation of human rights ideas among different local rural populations, and how they are embedded in the creation of boundaries between communities. It uses the concept of embodiment to understand the lived, collective experience that emanates from the home and care activities at the basis of leaders’ human rights activism in the rural communities under study. The thesis shows how local claims tend to be transformed into a statistical lexicon when moving upward to the international auditing of rural women’s living conditions. Finally, the thesis discusses the twofold effect of the human rights discourse at the local level: it is relevant for grassroots activists to oppose the State, but it also becomes a regulatory force.

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