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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In our new issue we feature a dossier on international organizations and technologies of stateness. In contains essays on Ethiopia and the League of Nations, imperial internationalism in India, constitution drafting manuals, the World Bank in Calcutta, the state and international law, and UN technical assistance in decolonializing states.View entire issue >
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Li Wenliang, Liu Zhiming, Xu Depu, Peng Yinhua, Xia Sisi: these are the names of some of the doctors that have died while treating COVID-19 patients in Hubei Province in China, according to media reports. As of late February, 3,387 health workers in China have reportedly been infected; at least 18 of these have died. Some of the earliest cases of community transmission of the disease in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia have likewise afflicted frontline health workers. Images circulating in the Continue reading →
The following speech was delivered at the plenary—“Political and Revolutionary Imaginaries from Past to Present”—of the 16th Annual Historical Materialism conference held in London on November 9, 2019. When the conference organizers invited me to participate in this plenary some moons ago, I agreed rather hesitantly. What revolutionary imaginaries had the World Tribunal on Iraq developed at the turn of the twenty-first century? Which of the tribunal’s many aspirations, inspirations, and implications could I convey? Did the World Tribunal on Iraq deserve to be called Continue reading →