UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

From left to rights : Guatemalan women's struggle for justice Nitsán, Tal


From Left to Rights is study of a social movement mobilized in the new age of rights—Guatemalan women’s organizations’ campaign to eradicate violence against women. The movement relies on and derives from women’s human rights discourse and the transnational feminist movement, yet it is a local manifestation of a search for justice, dignity and hope. The main protagonists of this campaign are Guatemalan women who have decided, for historic and strategic reasons, to use women’s human rights discourse to promote their struggle. Considering some of the discourse’s internal contradictions, and based on 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Guatemala City, I argue that in order for women’s human rights discourse to promote a substantial change in the lives of Guatemalans, the discourse is framed and practiced in terms of dignity. As I illustrate, Guatemalan women’s organizations emphasize and legitimize women’s diverse lived experiences. They encourage women to see themselves as worthy beings, as actors, and as the rightful protagonists of their own lives. They also motivate women to draw support from other women and to see themselves as part of a worthy community. Hence, these organizations inspire women to begin to imagine themselves not only as worthy of life, but also as worthy of happiness. In a reality in which envisioning change is an act of resistance, hope—the ability to imagine a better future—is the key mechanism to explain the social transformation attempted by Guatemala’s women’s rights campaign. Such individual and collective transformation further requires transforming the spaces in which they live to allow and encourage these new subjectivities. This dual, dialectical transition, I illustrate, is both an outcome of a long process, and a method to keep the (transformation) process going.

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