Abstract: This paper asks, what might it mean to take seriously the claim that human rights processes are a form of ritual? It does so through an ethnographic analysis of the work of the UN Committee Against Torture. The apparent self-referentiality of human rights regimes has led some critics to argue that they have become an increasingly calcified process. This paper argues though that the formal ritual of the UN human rights monitoring process can create space for the moral imagination. More specifically, the rituals of human rights can create an “as if” of commitment to human rights, which takes shape despite, or even because of the problems and absences in existing practices.
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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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