Abstract: There is something distinctly ritualistic about the Preamble in international human rights instruments: in its repetitiveness both within and across legal instruments; in its logical ordering of the universe, connecting what has gone before (‘whereas’: human nature, crisis, recognition) with what must follow (‘therefore’: the law, this law); in its very style and representation. This suggests that the Preamble is more than a literally useful passage at the start of the text for lawyers to get to the law, but also something like a rite of passage, a performative calling-forth of ‘what goes before’ so that universal human rights might follow. This paper examines what such a reading of the Preamble in international human rights law as a ritual might reveal about universal human rights, and what it might reveal about the ‘problem’ of human rights ritual/ism.
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In our new issue we feature Amy Kapczynski’s essay on neoliberalism and the right to medicine. Also in this issue are essays on Armenians and the history of humanitarian evacuations, the changing politics of squatting in Britain, Chinese Humanism, and the genre of NGO reports in India. We end with a review essay on the attempt to outlaw war.View entire issue >
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