Human rights are now the dominant approach to social justice globally. But how do human rights work? What do they do? Drawing on anthropological studies of human rights work from around the world, this book examines human rights in practice. It shows how groups and organizations mobilize human rights language in a variety of local settings, often differently from those imagined by human rights law itself. The case studies reveal the contradictions and ambiguities of human rights approaches to various forms of violence. They show that this openness is not a failure of universal human rights as a coherent legal or ethical framework but an essential element in the development of living and organic ideas of human rights in context. Studying human rights in practice means examining the channels of communication and institutional structures that mediate between global ideas and local situations. Suitable for use on inter-disciplinary courses globally.
Introduction - locating rights, envisioning law between the global and the local Mark Goodale; Part I. States of Violence: 1. Introduction Sally Engle Merry; 2. The violence of rights - human rights as culprit, human rights as victim Daniel Goldstein; 3. Double-binds of self and secularism in Nepal - religion, democracy, identity and rights Lauren Leve; Part II. Registers of Power: 4. Introduction Laura Nader; 5. The power of right(s) - tracking empires of law and new modes of social resistance in Bolivia (and elsewhere) Mark Goodale; 6. Exercising rights and reconfiguring resistance in the the Zapatista Shannon Speed; Part III. Conditions of Vulnerability: 7. Introduction Sally Engle Merry; 8. Rights to indigenous culture in Colombia Jean Jackson; 9. The 2000 UN Human Trafficking Protocol - rights, enforcement, vulnerabilities Kay Warren; Part IV. Encountering Ambivalence: 10. Introduction Balakrishnan Rajagopal; 11. Transnational legal conflict between peasants and corporations in Burma - human rights and discursive ambivalence under the US Alien Tort Claims Act John Dale; 12. Being Swazi, Being Human - custom, constitutionalism and human rights in an African monarchy Sari Wastell; 13. Conclusion - Tyrannosaurus Lex - The Anthropology of human rights and transnational law Richard Ashby Wilson.
"This collection makes a compelling case for human rights as a new focus of anthropological research, evidence of a discipline in lively transition. Even more fundamentally, the range of projects and commitments expressed in the essays point to key locations - at once political, ethical, and experiential - in the new legal geography of globalism, as the contributors map the uneven horizons and pathways along which human rights are today asserted, defended, and contested."
--- Carol Greenhouse, Professor of Anthropology, Princeton University
"A compelling book. The anthropologists here are also interdisciplinarists. The reconfiguration of institutions, resistance movements and everyday expectations brought about by the very idea of human rights demands a reconfiguring of approaches from the social observer. The authors shrink from neither the questions nor the answers thrown up by human rights efforts in practice. By focusing on issues of violence, power, vulnerability and people's ambivalence, they offer insights that mould a new kind of realism."
---Marilyn Strathern, William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
“Human rights” has become one of the key ideas of contemporary world-making. This book places it in an open intellectual landscape, where well-informed scholars come together to engage in close scrutiny of its translation into political and legal practice, in a wide range of settings from the Chiapas of the Zapatistas to the Myanmar of the military junta. Their global reach and theoretical sophistication contribute impressively to the vitality of the idea itself, and to the growth of understanding of its uses."
---Ulf Hannerz, Stockholm University
".....this volume presents a substantial overview of human rights practice, written by senior scholars in anthropology and law, mainly in the U.S. .....Goodale (conflict analysis and anthropology, George Mason U.) provides a lengthy introduction to the volume."
---Book News Inc.
"...This volume will introduce the reader to some of the main issues and approaches in contemporary thinking on human rights being done in social science circles, primarily, but not exclusively, by anthropologists, and among the latter primarily, but not exclusively, those concerned with the anthropology of law..."
Terence Turner, University of Chicago & Cornell University, Journal of Anthropological Research