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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Our new issue features a conversation between Jasbir K. Puar and Oishik Sircar, available open-access on the Humanity journal website. The issue also includes essays on the politics humanitarian architecture and the Parisian “Yellow Bubble,” family planning projects in postcolonial Morocco, how Amnesty International's formative years shaped professional human rights activism, and the linguistic and affective labor of field interpreters for UN missions. It contains review essays on theories of political violence and on global histories of slavery and indentured labor.View entire issue >
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This essay is part of a symposium on Yogita Goyal’s Runaway Genres. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Which forms are most amenable for narrating the afterlives of slavery and why? Which configurations of race and power come to the fore and which recede when contemporary Afro-diasporic writers take up the slave narrative to address contemporary human-rights violations in Africa? What happens to the mutually constitutive relationship between race and form across different spaces and times? These are the questions that animate Continue reading →