The Right to Remedies: On Human Rights Critiques and Peoples’ Recourses

This post is part of a symposium on Amy Kapczynski’s essay “The Right to Medicines in an Age of Neoliberalism.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Across the Americas, peoples (let’s keep them multiple) live in exhausted worlds. Worlds on the edge of autocracy, of financial collapse, of infrastructural breakdown and environmental tipping points—mediated by extreme populism and state and corporate efforts to dismantle piecemeal, though meaningful, agendas of socioeconomic rights. Violence and deadly health disparities are persistent realities that, time and Continue reading →

Human Rights against Dominium

This post is part of a symposium on Amy Kapczynski’s essay “The Right to Medicines in an Age of Neoliberalism.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Amy Kapczynski’s essay, “The Right to Medicines in an Age of Neoliberalism,” is a persuasive and provocative retort to recent claims by Naomi Klein and others that human rights discourse is an impotent weapon against neoliberalism, if not a complement to it. Through the specific example of the human right to medicines guaranteed by law in Continue reading →

Is the Right to Medicines a Canary in the Human Rights Coalmine?

This post is part of a symposium on Amy Kapczynski’s essay “The Right to Medicines in an Age of Neoliberalism.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Introduction Amy Kapczynski’s article presciently points out the weaknesses of the judicialization of the right to medicines, and its failure “to engage a foundational aspect of [these cases]: the political economy of medicines that they assume.”[1] Kapczynski argues that these cases suggest that a right to medicines “imbricated” within the prevailing neoliberal regime is plausibly regressive: Continue reading →

Rights, Politics and the Political Economy of Medicines

This post is part of a symposium on Amy Kapczynski’s essay “The Right to Medicines in an Age of Neoliberalism.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Amy Kapczynski’s essay “The Right to Medicines in an Age of Neoliberalism” is part of a growing scholarship on the apparently paradoxical situation where human rights are mainstreamed globally as the lingua franca to discuss issues of justice while inequalities increase and the capacity of states to provide social protection and promote redistribution is reduced. Some Continue reading →

Human Rights and the Political Economy

This post is part of a symposium on Amy Kapczynski’s essay “The Right to Medicines in an Age of Neoliberalism.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. It is refreshing to read a critique of human rights that is neither overly deterministic nor overly grounded in the experience and concerns of the Northwest quadrant of the globe. Amy Kapczynksi’s call for an approach to human rights that attacks the political economy of a problem is an excellent contribution to the current debate about Continue reading →

Political Economy and Human Rights: Paths Forward

This post is part of a symposium on Amy Kapczynski’s essay “The Right to Medicines in an Age of Neoliberalism.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. The most elemental claim I make in “The Right to Medicines in an Age of Neoliberalism” is that questions of political economy should be central to the analysis and practice of contemporary human rights. I read this superb set of responses as essentially in agreement, and I will focus here on how they speak to a Continue reading →

Consultancy, Confidentiality & Scholarly Responsibility: Glimpses from the UN OHCHR

Last December the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore, commissioned an ethnographic consultancy of the organizational culture of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The consultancy was assigned to a team consisting of Agathe Mora, Julie Billaud, and myself, three political and legal anthropologists who combined have extensive experience in the ethnography of human rights and international organizations. The call for the consultancy outlined as its motivations the desire to “identify remaining barriers and obstacles to, Continue reading →

On Arendt, Kafka, and the Uses of Misreading

This post is part of a symposium on Lyndsey Stonebridge’s Placeless People. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. “Literature is put to all kinds of political uses, public and private,” Philip Roth once observed, “but one oughtn’t confuse those uses with the hard-won reality that an author has succeeded in realizing in a work of art.” After reading Placeless People: Writing, Rights, and Refugees (2018), I wonder if Lyndsey Stonebridge would disagree. Works of literature that deal with human rights issues are Continue reading →

Modernism, Humanitarianism, and Suffering

This post is part of a symposium on Lyndsey Stonebridge’s Placeless People. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Lyndsey Stonebridge’s Placeless People: Writing, Rights, and Refugees offers a historically rich, theoretically compelling, and literarily nuanced account of a question that has long underpinned scholarship on human rights: what is the relationship between literature and human rights? Several aesthetic forms are typically foregrounded when considering this question: sentimentalism as a mode of empathizing with the suffering other; the Bildungsroman as a genre that Continue reading →

Bernard on Stonebridge’s Placeless People

This post is part of a symposium on Lyndsey Stonebridge’s Placeless People. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Placeless People cements Lyndsey Stonebridge’s position as one of the most committed and perceptive chroniclers of the Euro-U.S. intellectual milieu of the mid-twentieth century. Like her brilliant previous book, The Judicial Imagination: Writing After Nuremburg, Placeless People returns to this historical juncture to recover critiques of humanitarian thinking that were articulated at the time of human rights law’s formalization. Stonebridge describes this book as Continue reading →