Making Human Rights Emotional: A Research Agenda to Recover Shame in “Naming and Shaming”

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Shame is an emotion that is the cornerstone of International Relations (IR) human rights scholarship but remains undertheorized from an explicitly emotional perspective. Given the dubious and unsettled efficacy of human rights “naming and shaming” campaigns, in this article, we outline the theoretical and methodological contours of a research agenda designed (1) to uncover the emotional content of naming and shaming and (2) to pay greater attention to how nonstate actors, especially human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), evoke and experience shame, thus engaging in “emotional diplomacy.” Drawing on theories of emotions in IR and political psychology, we present a thicker account of shame by highlighting the individual and social origins of shame, discussing different varieties of shame, and by distinguishing between emotions that are often conflated with shame. We end with a discussion of the methodological tools suitable for pursuing this agenda, using examples of prominent human rights NGOs.