Author Archives: Stephen Meyers

About Stephen Meyers

Currently a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of California, San Diego.

Disability Rights, International Development, and the Remaking of Civil Society

Over the past several years, I have been studying the interactions between the global  disability rights movement—all of the UN agencies, international NGOs, and transnational networks focused on advancing the human rights of persons with disabilities—and a small coalition of grassroots disabled persons associations in Nicaragua. While the international disability rights movement has thus far received scant scholarly attention, I believe it is a harbinger of things to come. In recent years, there has been a major shift in the practices of international development NGOs away from humanitarian assistance and concrete project implementation towards “being allies with people’s organizations and social movement in a collective struggle for change” (Chapman 2009, p. 167). Rather than providing food aid or digging wells, mainstream NGOs are now prioritizing increasing the “political knowledge” (Williams, 2007) of marginalized groups as the best way of addressing their vulnerability. This rights-based approach to development is based on a belief that local political advocacy can solve global poverty, albeit one community at a time, and a shift away from trying to spur market growth or build up governments to a new focus on remaking civil society. In short, it is development done by social movement, regardless of the level of economic development or governmental capacity of a specific country. Continue reading


Filed under Emerging Stars in Social Movement Research, Essay Dialogues

The Road to Wigan Pier Runs Through Nicaragua

Since I have been conducting research on local, grassroots disability organizations in the midst of a growing international disability movement, I often find myself thinking about George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier (1938). For those who haven’t read it, Orwell put his finger on a pretty fundamental issue: movement leaders often diagnose the needs of their members or intended beneficiaries very differently than those members/beneficiaries diagnose their needs themselves. This seems especially true in movements that emphasize a “change in consciousness” as a first step. Continue reading


Filed under Daily Disruption