Afterword to: 'Anthropology and Human Rights in a New Key': The Social Life of Rights

American Anthropologist, Vol. 108, No. 1, March 2006

7 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2014

See all articles by Richard Ashby Wilson

Richard Ashby Wilson

University of Connecticut School of Law; University of Connecticut

Date Written: March 8, 2006

Abstract

In this article, I argue for an ethnographic approach to human rights that recognizes the plural and fragmentary nature of the international rights regime and the ideological promiscuity of rights talk. Instead of determining in advance the social or political character of rights, anthropologists could profitably draw from the insights of early 20th-century “legal realists” and look closely at the underlying assumptions and hidden practices of political and legal processes. Studying the “social life of human rights” would involve focusing on, inter alia, the performative dimensions of human rights, the dynamics of social mobilization, and the attitudinal changes of elite and nonelite social actors toward formulations of “rights” and “justice,” both inside and outside the legal process. I conclude with a review of recent anthropological research on human rights epistemology and evaluate its implications for human rights policy.

Keywords: Anthropology of human rights, Legal anthropology, Theories of rights

Suggested Citation

Wilson, Richard Ashby, Afterword to: 'Anthropology and Human Rights in a New Key': The Social Life of Rights (March 8, 2006). American Anthropologist, Vol. 108, No. 1, March 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2392893 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2392893

Richard Ashby Wilson (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uconn.edu/faculty/profiles/richard-wilson

University of Connecticut ( email )

354 Mansfield Road
Storrs, CT 06269-1176
United States

HOME PAGE: http://humanrights.uconn.edu/faculty_staff/richard-wilson/

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