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 Jessica Whyte’s piece on Just War, Decolonization and the Geneva Conventions. Also in this issue are essays on humanitarianism, postcolonialism and the fiction of Bessie Head, the international movement for Iranian political prisoners, Mexico’s contribution to International Economic Order, filming force feeding in Guantanamo, and a photo dossier on Asylum/Home. We end with a review essay on the humanitarian conscience.View entire issue >
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The journal Humanity was founded in 2010 to examine the politics of “humanity” found in the convergence of human rights, humanitarianism and development. This was a period when a critique of human rights and the entanglements of humanitarianisms with empire was also gaining momentum. The current editorial collective affirms Humanity’s founding mission while attuning to new challenges. A complex dynamic of old problems and emerging obstacles has occasioned a chastened turn to human rights and humanitarianism: a renewed call to humanity has gained traction in Continue reading →
Edinburgh, October 2018 From migrants facing death at borders around the world, to the different chapters of the “War on Terror,” to the politics of post-genocide, our era seems to be marked by the constant politicisation of death. Social and physical death are increasingly intertwined in various spectacles of horror. Clearly, not all deaths are treated equally. Trenchant questions remain over what kinds of death are deemed morally, political and legally significant; and what kinds of death are rendered visible or invisible, and with what Continue reading →