Abstract: Recent histories of human rights have emphasized the importance of the 1970s as the “breakthrough” moment for human rights. This article assesses this claim and proposes a more variegated and paradoxical account. It revisits the UDHR on its twenty-fifth anniversary in 1973, and surveys the fractured set of meanings that “human rights” had acquired by that time within the United Nations, national contexts and in civil society. The article points however to the shared appreciation of the power of human rights language and the unabashed instrumentalism with which it was often deployed.
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Our new issue has a dossier on human rights ritualism as its centerpiece, from which we are featuring Zachary Manfredi’s piece on the Russell Tribunal. Also in the issue are three articles on atrocity propaganda, Oxfam’s history, and the uses and abuses of measurement in global malnutrition assessment. Finally, the issue rounds out with a review on recent books on humanitarian advocacy.View entire issue >
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This post is an advance version of a review essay that will appear in Humanity volume 10. It will be posted in five parts: one each day this week. This is part 5. The interwar period was a time of heightened confusion about the boundary between war and peace. The meaning of both terms became thoroughly destabilized by political events. In this context the legal effort to end war through outlawry had unexpected and counterproductive effects. For by removing war from the realm of acceptable Continue reading →