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.
Follow Us On TwitterMy Tweets
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 >
Recent Blog Posts
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 →