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Sovereign Emergencies
Latin America and the Making of Global Human Rights Politics


Part of Human Rights in History

  • Date Published: June 2018
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316615119

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About the Authors
  • The concern over rising state violence, above all in Latin America, triggered an unprecedented turn to a global politics of human rights in the 1970s. Patrick William Kelly argues that Latin America played the most pivotal role in these sweeping changes, for it was both the target of human rights advocacy and the site of a series of significant developments for regional and global human rights politics. Drawing on case studies of Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, Kelly examines the crystallization of new understandings of sovereignty and social activism based on individual human rights. Activists and politicians articulated a new practice of human rights that blurred the borders of the nation-state to endow an individual with a set of rights protected by international law. Yet the rights revolution came at a cost: the Marxist critique of US imperialism and global capitalism was slowly supplanted by the minimalist plea not to be tortured.

    • Draws on archival research and oral interviews spanning ten countries in Latin America, Europe, the United States, and Australia
    • Offers a highly interdisciplinary lens, drawing on political science, anthropology, law, and sociology to paint a broad historical canvas
    • Historicizes the birth of global human rights politics with a minimalist focus on civil and politics rights in the 1970s
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'In this lucid, informed, and clear account, Kelly shows how a succession of regimes in the 1960s, 70s and 80s chose the human body as their staging ground for ideological warfare, and how out of these nightmares the defense of what came to be known as human rights was born. An indispensable history of modern Latin America.' Alma Guillermoprieto, former journalist for The Guardian, the Washington Post, and The New York Times, and author of The Heart that Bleeds: Latin America Now

    'This book is an important contribution to the history of human rights discourse and activism from a transnational perspective that documents and analyzes an important process that took place in the 1970s regarding the way Latin American exiles and those concerned about the wave of repression in South America responded to reports of arrest, torture, and the disappearance of political activists.' James Green, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Professor of Modern Latin American History, Brown University, Rhode Island

    'Finally, a careful and thoroughly researched study on the contributions of Latin America to the international human rights canon. The last few decades have greatly expanded the substance of what we consider rights, and incorporated the 'language of rights' into all areas of public policy. In that recent history, Latin American advocates, jurists and human rights defenders have created models that break barriers of cultural relativism and contribute to the universality of human dignity from the lessons of tragedy and triumph that are so eloquently described in these pages.' Juan E. Méndez, American University, Washington, DC, and Commissioner, International Commission of Jurists

    'Patrick William Kelly's first book is an important contribution to the burgeoning literature on the human rights revolution of the 1970s … [It] offers insightful comments about the role of Latin American exiles in this revolution, includes fascinating digressions about testimonial truth, and, all in all, provides a successful model to those interested in writing empirically grounded transnational histories.' Alfonso Salgado, Journal of Contemporary History

    'Sovereign Emergencies is a rich kaleidoscope that emphasizes the importance of writing histories that underscore plurality in the formation of the ideas and practices that animate international politics. In doing so, Kelly offers a new view of global politics as a process that does not occur top-down but in a multitude of directions that can be grasped only by portraying diverse encounters.' Jorge González-Jácome, The Journal of Interdisciplinary History

    'Kelly has managed to write a convincing and detailed account not only about transnational human rights activism in the Americas and Western Europe, but has also made an important contribution to the still recent historiography on human rights more generally. The author has achieved this by pointing out the importance for detail, nuance, and clarity when dealing with the different aspects of human rights and its 'breakthrough' in the 1970s.' Philipp Kandler, Global Histories

    'Sovereign Emergencies is a fantastic read. It foregrounds Latin America in the human rights revolution of the 1970s, offers insightful comments about the role of Latin American exiles in this revolution, includes fascinating digressions about testimonial truth, and, all in all, provides a successful model to those interested in writing empirically grounded transnational histories.' Alfonso Salgado, Journal of Contemporary History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2018
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316615119
    • length: 334 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.45kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    List of figures
    1. Torture in Brazil
    2. The emergency in Chile
    3. Transnational solidarity
    4. Redefining sovereignty
    5. The origins of American human rights activism
    6. The global specter of Argentina's disappeared
    7. Argentina and the inter-American system
    Epilogue: the promise and limits of the human rights cascade

  • Author

    Patrick William Kelly, Northwestern University, Illinois
    Patrick William Kelly is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Buffett Institute for Global Studies at Northwestern University. He is currently writing a global history of AIDS.

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