A Human Rights Crisis? Unpacking the Debate of the Future of the Human Rights Field
40 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2017 Last revised: 26 Jun 2018
Date Written: March 31, 2016
Uncertainty seems to be the dominant mood in human rights circles these days. A new wave of scholarship debates foundational issues about the human rights movement and wonders whether we have now entered its “endtimes”. In the midst of analytical and practical confusion about how to approach the inherent complexity of human rights, it is important to step back and reflect upon the criticisms, reassess the status quo, and retool for the future. Our ongoing research project is meant as a contribution to this larger, long-term task. The project seeks to demystify the idea of the “crisis” of the field in three steps.
Based on a systematic review of the most often cited books, articles and blog posts published in academic journals, book series and specialized online fora during the last decade, this paper is diagnostic in nature. We discuss six sets of criticisms and responses that, in our reading, dominate the literature about human rights. Our ultimate goal is to contribute to formulating the challenges of the human rights field in a way that is more empirically precise, analytically coherent, and useful for developing new courses of action in response to them.
First, it will begin by deconstructing the generic idea of a crisis into the highly diverse challenges and criticisms that compose it. Second, it will present a menu of more specific challenges for discussion among human rights actors and between them and external interlocutors. Third, it will present responses for each challenge.
Keywords: Human Rights, Human Rights Movement, Future of Human Rights
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