Human Rights, American Exceptionalism, and the Stories We Tell

30 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2010

See all articles by Natsu Taylor Saito

Natsu Taylor Saito

Georgia State University College of Law

Date Written: 2009


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights represents a remarkable expansion in the recognition of the fundamental rights of all peoples. Nonetheless, consensus on the implementation of these rights is elusive. Two commonly referenced obstacles to achieving such a consensus are: (1) the United States’ practice of unilaterally exempting itself from international human rights treaties, i.e., American exceptionalism; and (2) resistance from those who see the international human rights movement as a means of imposing Western values on non-Western cultures. Considering these as related issues, both deriving from the Eurocentric nature of contemporary international law, this essay suggests that a truly universal consensus will require a decolonizing of the underlying framework of human rights law.

Keywords: human rights, international law, American exceptionalism, international human rights, treaties

JEL Classification: K00, K33, K39

Suggested Citation

Saito, Natsu Taylor, Human Rights, American Exceptionalism, and the Stories We Tell (2009). Emory International Law Review, Vol. 23, p. 41, 2009; Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-01. Available at SSRN:

Natsu Taylor Saito (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States

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