Imagining Human Rights

The relation between law as declared and as practice continues to be regarded as an ‘unfinished business’ in academic scholarships. A new online book has just been released to take the stock of this debate. Susanne Kaul (University of Münster, Germany) and David D. Kim (University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA) are the editors of a collection of essays brought together in the book  Imagining Human Rights.

The book raises critical questions about common and divergent points of departure for interrogating the limits of common humanity in the twenty-first century. Instead of conceptualising human rights as divisible subjects of investigation, it begs for answers that come from multiple disciplinary, historical, and geopolitical perspectives. It is structured into two themes; claiming human rights and human rights in political imagination.

The abstract reads:

Why is it that human rights are considered inviolable norms of justice at local and global scales although the number of their violations has steadily increased in modern history? On the surface, this paradox seems to be reducible to a straightforward discrepancy between idealism and reality in humanitarian affairs, but Imagining Human Rights complicates the picture by offering interdisciplinary perspectives on the imaginary status of human rights. By that the contributors mean not merely subject to imagination, open to interpretation or far too abstract, but also formative of a social imaginary with emphatic identifications and shared values. From a variety of disciplinary perspectives, they explore critical ways of engaging in rigorous interdisciplinary conversations about the origin and language of human rights, personal dignity, redistributive justice, and international solidarity. Together, they show how and why a careful examination of the intersection between disciplinary investigations is essential for imagining human rights at large. Examples range from the legitimacy of land ownership rights and the inadequacy of human faculty to make sense of mass violence in visual representation to the stewardship of human rights promoters and the genealogy of human rights.

The book is published as open access and table of contents can be found here.

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