Frictional Encounters in Postwar Human Rights: An Analysis of LGBTQI Activism in Lebanon

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The advancement of LGBTQI rights is now a significant component of many international aid programmes. The successful diffusion of LGBTQI rights is supposed to rest on a successful interaction between international agencies that foster global rights and social movement actors that embed these processes at the local level. Yet, these encounters between global human rights ideas and local practices may not always generate positive dynamics. Drawing on the concept of ‘friction’ – the unstable qualities of interaction between global and local forces – this paper explores the relationship between international actors promoting LGBTQI rights and local social movement activists in post-conflict societies. I argue that the notion of global rights is particularly problematic in the context of post-conflict societies where rights are allocated on the basis of sectarian identity. To empirically illustrate these issues, I look at LGBTQI social movement activism in the divided society of Lebanon. In particular, I examine the emergence and development of Helem – the first recognised LGBTQI rights group in the Middle East and North Africa – which quickly became the poster child for international development and aid agencies in the Global North.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 357-376
JournalInternational Journal of Human Rights
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2020


  • Human rights
  • post-conflict

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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