The democratic deficit of transnational environmental activism: a case study of e-waste governance in India

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Abstract

The literature on transnational activism often associates environmental NGOs with democratic legitimacy, grassroots representation and environmental justice. Authors employ case studies to demonstrate how engaging in transnational networks increases the political agency of environmental NGOs. Yet, there is a tendency mostly to select successful cases. In this article, I investigate the political activities of the environmental NGO, Toxics Link, surrounding the recycling of electronic waste in India. Based on qualitative research, this study shows how the political incorporation of Toxics Link in transnational advocacy networks and domestic governance networks constrains their political agency. The structural exclusion of e-waste labourers from Indian policy negotiations negates the discursive claims of legitimacy, representation and justice. These incorporation processes create a democratic deficit. I use the insights gained from this case study to provide a critical assessment of theories of transnational environmental activism.

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