Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name



Political Science

First Advisor

Brad R. Roth


This project proposes a framework for liberatory representation that institutionalizes processes to remove domination and meaningfully increasing respect and concern toward marginalized groups on issues that substantively affect them. It argues that decision-making processes that do not offer meaningful influence to those people who are most affected by particular decisions turn those who are supposed to be political equals into wards of dominant groups; essentially turning adults into political children. To meet ideals of political equality, liberatory processes for inclusive decision-making are required. The concept of political adulthood provides the foundation for an examination of current processes designed to bring the voices of affected communities into the governance of global organizations. Dworkin's arguments for "equal respect and concern" and full membership, or "moral membership," in the political community, as the essential democratic conditions provide a theoretical foundation for analysis. Throughout, close attention is paid to the political organizing work of two marginalized groups who have successfully achieved formal representation within specific U.N. bodies: Indigenous Peoples and people living with and affected by HIV. I argue that meaningful democratic decision-making can exist outside of both legislative and geographical boundaries, but only under particular conditions of inclusion and practice. Building on the work of Mansbridge, Williams, and Young, I argue first that we need to clearly understand - in each instance - who the affected groups are that require a decision-making voice. Next, following Agamben's "relations of the ban;" Gramscian understandings of civil society power dynamics; and Mouffe and Laclau's work on agonistic democracy; I argue that understanding civil society processes as politics, that is, as spaces for contention characterized by power challenges, is essential for crafting liberatory democratic practices that meaningfully involve the needs and perspectives of those most marginalized. Finally, I offer a framework for processes of liberatory representation within global institutions. I argue that critical democratic conditions that ensure meaningful influence on outcomes, increased status for oppressed groups, and opportunities to develop perceived communities of shared fate across marginalized and dominant groups must be met. Difficult challenges, some specific to the global sphere, must be addressed: the balance of power between states and global institutions that limits manueverability for marginalized groups; structural violence; and ensuring that those subordinated within oppressed groups are meaningfully represented.