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Author ORCID Identifier
Open Access Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Existing international relations literature shows that coherent messaging by advocacy networks is a key component for successful transnational mobilization around human security issues. However, traditional models of transnational advocacy do not fully explain how activists working against armed drones have mobilized over the past two decades. This dissertation explores the case of a transnational advocacy coalition that – despite efforts to do so – was unable to coalesce around a central message: the anti-drone issue network. I ask two interrelated questions: 1) Why have international anti-drone activists not been able to overcome disagreements over framings? and more broadly, 2) How do actors with differing levels of geopolitical power navigate a transnational human security network? Drawing on an original text and picture dataset of 300 anti-drone advocacy documents, 38 in-depth interviews with key informants, and multi-sited fieldwork, I argue that distinct exertions of power by specific, geographically disparate actors affected the overall issue network’s ability to cohere around a unifying frame. Specifically, partnering decisions at every level of the network were impacted by an original concept that I call “inverse vetting” – a process through which less materially and geographically powerful network actors legitimize the advocacy framings of more powerful groups by partnering with them or not.
I demonstrate this argument through three empirical chapters that examine different levels of the transnational advocacy network against drones. In the first empirical chapter, I focus on the most powerful actors in the network: international non-governmental organizations that lobby international organizations. I then analyze US-based activists who primarily petition their own government over its drone policies. The last empirical chapter examines a violence-affected segment of the anti-drone network in Pakistan. Each of these chapters explore how power is operative in transnational advocacy networks through the mechanism of inverse vetting. I argue that inverse vetting demonstrates how actors who are traditionally considered the least enfranchised members of a network can affect the overall coherency of an advocacy campaign by making their voices and interests heard.
Nylen, Alexandria J., "Targeting Drones: Framing, Vetting, and Power in Transnational Advocacy Issue Networks" (2021). Doctoral Dissertations. 2286.
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