Amílcar Antonio Barreto


Denis Joseph Sullivan, Nikos Passas

Date of Award


Date Accepted


Degree Grantor

Northeastern University

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department or Academic Unit

College of Arts and Sciences. Department of Political Science.


IRA, Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, analysis

Subject Categories

Human rights, Irish Republican Army, Ikhwān al-Muslimūn, Nationalism, Sinn Fein, Hamas Terrorism


Political Science | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


Scholars of nationalism contend the nation or national identity is an artificial construction and they acknowledge one cannot create something from nothing -- a kind of "building block" is required. For some socio-political movements, including those that use violence, human rights violations become building blocks. The power of violations as a building block is grounded in their real and perceived importance in both the domestic and international political and legal arenas.

This study examines Sinn Féin and the Irish Republic Army (Northern Ireland); the Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt); and Hamas (Israel and the occupied territories), and finds that all are examples of "nationalist" entrepreneurs. These movements strategically use human rights abuses as building blocks in their support-seeking narratives, defining and reinforcing in-group and out-group boundaries (i.e. the oppressed vs. the oppressors) in the domestic arena, justifying their actions -- from civil protest to violence -- and demonizing their opponents on the international stage.

Part of the theoretical underpinnings of this study are founded in the fact that the opposition and resistance groups herein are rational support maximizers that tap into the emotion-based preferences of their target populations. Groups strategically utilize grievances and emphasize their simultaneous roles of being oppressed and resisting the oppressor on behalf of the nation, whether it is Irish, Egyptian, or Palestinian. This both reinforces the ties between the organization and the larger community and serves as a vehicle of othering.

Othering relates to the other major theoretical girder of this study -- nationalism. Herein, the focus is on the process and formation of national identities. Human rights violations, as evidenced in the forthcoming case studies, are a tool used to cultivate group identity as the project of "nation" building requires attention to an underlying precept of nationalism: in order to have us you must also have them. In the discourse that follows, the us are the violated or the oppressed and the them are the violators and the oppressors.

If, as Benedict Anderson states, nations are imagined communities, there exists an opportunity to influence those who are doing the imagining. The nationalist entrepreneurs studied herein are rational actors who make choices and those choices exist in a context. Human rights building blocks can be used to create sustainable communities that embrace diversity or they can be used to craft narratives in opposition that enhance discordance and can encourage violence. Those who are concerned about ending state violations of human rights and resistance movement violence have an opportunity to influence that context.

Document Type


Rights Holder

Kimberly Jones

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