My research focuses on international norms and activism; international and non-governmental organizations; the international aid regime; gender politics and rights; and Sub-Saharan Africa.
My first book, When Norms Collide, addresses how local communities respond to activism against the traditional practices of female genital mutilation and early marriage in Kenya. Many transnational campaigns, and particularly the transnational campaign on violence against women, promote international norms that target the behavior of local non-state actors, but these international norms are often at odds with local practices. What happens when the international and local norms collide? When does transnational activism lead individuals and communities to abandon local norms and embrace international ones? When Norms Collide present a theoretical framework for understanding the processes by which individuals negotiate competing demands placed on them by international and local norms. Drawing on extensive fieldwork with Maasai and Samburu communities in Kenya, the book argues that, when faced with international normative messages, individuals can decide to change their attitudes, their behavior, and the public image they present to international and local audiences. It finds that the impact of transnational activism on individual decision-making substantially depends on the salience of the international and local norms to their respective proponents, as well as on community-level factors. The book further finds that there are both social and temporal dimensions to the diffusion of international norms across individuals and through communities.