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Human rights and religious transnational activism: an anthropological look at Católicas pelo Direito de Decidir

Grant number: 19/19639-8
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): December 01, 2019
Effective date (End): December 11, 2024
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Anthropology
Principal Investigator:Paula Montero
Grantee:Olivia Alves Barbosa
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:15/02497-5 - Religion, law and secularism: a new civic repertoire in Contemporary Brazil, AP.TEM
Associated scholarship(s):22/00777-4 - Human rights: mediating politics and affection, BE.EP.DR


This research focuses on the political action of Católicas pelo Direito de Decidir (CDD), which is a transnational network operating in different countries and international institutions. The research aims at understanding how the CDD mobilizes religion, gender and law in its transnational actions. CDD is a religious network of transnational activism advocating for sexual and reproductive rights. It operates in global, regional, and local contexts wherein one sees tensions, disputes, and negotiations between religion and feminist political actors framed as human rights issues. The research is thus interested in analyzing how human rights make alliances possible in the everyday life of religious actors who advocate for sexual and reproductive rights. The research is premised on the idea that the CDD activism shapes simultaneously the religious and the secular, the global and the local as dimensions of a network articulating the grammar of law and human rights as public culture. The contribution of the research will be to articulate the notion of public culture from the field of human rights, having as its main hypothesis that, in seeking a solution to specific problems, the CDD network shapes what Daniel Cefaï calls public culture, which encompasses human rights and religion itself. Subsidiary hypotheses of the research are: (I) the transnational networking of CDD allows its activists to learn new ways of framing domestic issues, experience new modes of action, and sometimes emerge with new identities; (II) law in general and human rights, in particular, are used to access institutional places, but also to build community bonds within and outside Catholicism; (III) in the communicative arenas in which agents engage, a production of religious feminism and religious feminists takes place. The general objective of the research is to understand how CDD contributes to the production of human rights as public culture. The specific objectives of the research are: (I) to map the CDD network, focusing on how its nodes respond to different local and global institutional structures, shared resources, the ways they mobilize and the strategies they adopt; (II) to observe the social life of rights as an imaginary and artifact of social mobilization; (III) understand the meanings of religion and human rights in the network, focusing on the tensions and negotiations between different local nodes, as well as their practical responses to the Catholic Church/Holy See and other religious groups. For this, I intend to conduct ethnographic research by looking act the CDD activism in three distinct planes. In the national scenario, I intend to focus on its activities in the debates about abortion and its participation in the movement called Féministas. At the regional level, I look at how CDD Brazil engages in the Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe activism, named Católicas por el Derecho de Decidir. Finally, on the global scene I intend to look at the CDD performance at the 64th session of the Commission on the Situation of Women, which will take place in 2020. The methodological option for looking at the CDD actions in three distinct planes tends to be itself a contribution of the thesis to the analysis of human rights' uses in social life. (AU)

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