When We Talk about Human Rights

The Language of Human Rights in West Germany
Lora Wildenthal
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013. 1 + 277 pp.

Human Rights in our Own Backyard: Injustice and Resistance in the United States
William T Armaline, Bandana Purkayastha, Davita Silfen Glasberg
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. xiv + 325 pp.

The Language of Human Rights

How do we know we’re talking about the same thing when we invoke human rights? Standard definitions of human rights point to the protection of basic human dignity and security, often in the absence of functioning state laws that guarantee civil, social, and political rights of citizens. In some cases, this means that human rights are the only rights possessed by a person who does not belong to a state, or whose state has ceased to exist, although claims of human rights violations are also made by petitioners who do not necessarily lack the legal protections of citizenship. Since World War II, a body of international law has protected these rights via the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its supporting treaties. Nevertheless, human rights advocates may obscure the distinction between a human rights violation and a violation of constitutional rights within the state, making it hard to formulate a definition of human rights based on actual practice.

This content is restricted to site members. If you are an existing user, please login. New users may click here to subscribe.

Existing Users Log In