Tactics and Transcendence: The Struggle to Create Common Understandings about Religion and Its Relationship to Women's Human Rights within the United Nations

Doctoral Dissertation


How do intergovernmental human rights regulatory institutions actually help to shape cultural understandings about the meaning of religion, including its relationship to women’s human rights and the types of actions governments must take to protect them? How, if at all, do United Nations (UN) and state elites matter in the effort to develop shared ways of understanding and talking about religion, women’s rights, and their relationship in these settings? Answering these questions requires examination and understanding of the cultural dynamics and processes that take place within these institutions themselves. Yet, sociological investigation within these spaces has been largely neglected or limited to analysis of civil society organizations and people affiliated with them. In this dissertation, I help to correct this problem and answer these questions by looking at dynamics that take place at the micro-interactive level within one of the most important intergovernmental institutions at work in the world to address and resolve differences around human rights, gender, and religion. This is the monitoring procedure of the UN’s main convention on women’s rights—the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). I examine how UN treaty body members and state representatives involved in CEDAW monitoring procedures talk with one another about religion and its relationship to women’s rights within this setting, as well as how they think about this relationship and work out how to approach it. To do this, I analyze and triangulate interviews, ethnographic fieldnotes based on UN meetings, and documents produced as part of CEDAW monitoring procedures. My findings have implications for several areas of scholarship but are especially relevant for global society scholarship and secularism studies scholarship. They provide new knowledge about how intergovernmental institutions and people who work within them interactively shape how religion and its relationship to women’s rights are talked about, understood, and pushed forward. Using these findings, I illustrate and explain an underlying conflict that makes differences in this area difficult to resolve. Finally, I demonstrate inadequacies in central binaries that have undermined the accuracy of dominant social scientific scholarship in this area and show ways to overcome them.


Attribute NameValues
Author Shanna Corner
Contributor Ann Mische, Committee Member
Contributor Lyn Spillman, Committee Member
Contributor Atalia Omer, Committee Member
Contributor Christian Smith, Research Director
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Sociology
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2018-04-04

Submission Date 2018-04-09
Record Visibility and Access Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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