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Human Rights at the Crossroads


Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a dramatic expansion in both the international human rights system and the transnational networks of activists, development organizations, and monitoring agencies that partially reinforce it. Yet despite or perhaps because of this explosive growth, the multiple statuses of human rights remain as unsettled as ever.

Human Rights at the Crossroads brings together preeminent and emerging voices within human rights studies to think ...

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Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a dramatic expansion in both the international human rights system and the transnational networks of activists, development organizations, and monitoring agencies that partially reinforce it. Yet despite or perhaps because of this explosive growth, the multiple statuses of human rights remain as unsettled as ever.

Human Rights at the Crossroads brings together preeminent and emerging voices within human rights studies to think creatively about problems beyond their own disciplines, and to critically respond to what appear to be intractable problems within human rights theory and practice. It includes essays that rethink the ideas surrounding human rights and dignity, human rights and state interests in citizenship and torture, the practice of human rights in politics, genocide, and historical re-writing, and the anthropological and medical approaches to human rights.

Human Rights at the Crossroads provides an integrative and interdisciplinary answer to the existing academic status quo, with broad implications for future theory and practice in all fields dealing with the problems of human rights theory and practice.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Beyond ritual invocations and expected contestations, the remarkable group of social anthropologists, political scientists, moral philosophers and legal scholars gathered in this volume lucidly interrogate the contemporary significance and relevance of human rights, linking original case studies with insightful theoretical analysis to explore their universal pretension and local appropriation, and discuss their tensions and aporias."
—Didier Fassin, Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and the author of Humanitarian Reason

"Human rights have become something like the lingua franca of global politics and yet the danger is that in the process they have also become detached from the very moral and political sources that fueled their emergence as mechanisms for naming and addressing injustices in the first place. In this exciting collection of essays, Mark Goodale has charged a distinguished and diverse group of scholars to freshly tackle some of the familiar dilemmas and paradoxes facing human rights theory and practice. The result is a lively and provocative set of essays that will help reorient our debates about human rights in new and fruitful directions."
—Duncan Ivison, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney, Professor of Political Philosophy

"Goodale has compiled an impressive set of essays by leading figures from a wide swath of disciplines ranging from Law to Political Science and Anthropology. This collection will be indispensable to a growing body of scholars and students concerned not only with the contested domain of human rights in the post-Cold War period, but the proliferation of rights talk and how these developments connect to 'the wider stakes involved' in the meaning and experience of human life. Each of these authors forcefully takes on the contradictions, tensions and possibilities inherent in the mobilization of human rights today. A landmark volume that speaks to today's most pressing concerns for the global community and that makes significant contributions to our future thinking."
Lynn Meskell , Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford University

"In Human Rights at the Crossroads, Mark Goodale has assembled a remarkable group of experts on modern human rights for a series of rich interdisciplinary exchanges about the practice of human rights after the immediate post-Cold War era. In sparkling essays that are both conceptual and empirical, the contributors examine the ethical dilemmas and foundational debates of human rights in a variety of global, political, and cultural contexts. What emerges is a refreshing evaluation of the status of international human rights discourses and institutions in the twenty-first century."
Richard Wilson, Gladstein Professor of Human Rights, Professor of Anthropology and Law and Director of the Human Rights Institute at the University of Connecticut

"We are challenged to identify, specify the possibilities, the constraints and indeed the contradictions that may arise when we are asked to put our Human Rights rhetoric to the test within economic frameworks, some of which may be unaccountable. In the human rights discourse old issues have been joined by new ones, challenging yet full of promise for scholarship and practice. Among the scholars is Professor Mark Goodale, who edited a recent work that carries the title 'Human Rights at the Crossroads'. That work shows that the issues have not gone away. They remain, they extend and they become more complex."
—Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, in a speech to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, San José, Costa Rica, October 29, 2013

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199376414
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2014
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 812,075
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Goodale is Associate Professor of Conflict Analysis and Anthropology at George Mason University and Series Editor of Stanford Studies in Human Rights. He is the author or editor of seven other books, including, most recently, Mirrors of Justice: Law and Power in the Post-Cold War Era (2010, with Kamari Maxine Clarke), Human Rights: An Anthropological Reader (2009), Surrendering to Utopia: An Anthropology of Human Rights (2009), Dilemmas of Modernity: Bolivian Encounters with Law and Liberalism (2008), and The Practice of Human Rights: Tracking Law Between the Global and the Local (2007, with Sally Engle Merry). Professor Goodale is currently at work on two new books: the first is a study of constitutional revolution and radical social change based on research in Bolivia since 2005; the second is a set of essays that explore the role of moral creativity within the practice of human rights.

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Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Human Rights After the Post-Cold War (Mark Goodale)

Part I: Regrounding the Idea of Human Rights
Chapter 2: Human Rights and the Politics of Contestation (Michael Goodhart)
Chapter 3: Why Act Towards One Another "In a Spirit of Brotherhood"?: The Grounds of Human Rights (Michael J. Perry)
Chapter 4: An Overlapping Consensus on Human Rights and Human Dignity (Ari Kohen)
Chapter 5: The "Right to Have Rights" to the Rescue: From Human Rights to Global Democracy (Eva Erman)

Part II: Human Rights and the Problem of the State
Chapter 6: Prosecuting Human Rights Violations: Universal Jurisdiction and the Crime of Torture (Tobias Kelly)
Chapter 7: Solidarity and Accountability: Rethinking Citizenship and Human Rights (Karen Faulk)

Part III: Politics and the Practice of Human Rights
Chapter 8: Whose Vernacular?: Translating Human Rights in Local Contexts (Daniel Goldstein)
Chapter 9: Sacred Graves and Human Rights (Adam Rosenblatt)
Chapter 10: Human Rights Monitoring and the Question of Indicators (Sally Engle Merry)

Part IV: Confronting Pathologies of Power
Chapter 11: The Paradox of Perpetration: A View From the Cambodian Genocide (Alexander Laban Hinton)
Chapter 12: "Why We Care": Constructing Solidarity (Alison Brysk)
Chapter 13: Historical Amnesia, Genocide, and the Rejection of Universal Human Rights (Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann)

Part V: Reproduction in the Age of Human Rights
Chapter 14: The Law's Legal Anthropology (Ronald Niezen)
Chapter 15: Cutting Human Rights Down to Size (Harri Englund)
Chapter 16: Acceptable Uses of People (Pheng Cheah)


Alison Brysk, University of California - Santa Barbara
Pheng Cheah, University of California - Berkeley
Harri Englund, University of Cambridge
Eva Erman, Uppsala University
Karen Faulk, Carnegie Mellon University
Daniel Goldstein, Rutgers University
Michael Goodhart, University of Pittsburgh
Alexander Laban Hinton, Rutgers University - Newark
Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann, Wilfrid Laurier University
Tobias Kelly, University of Edinburgh
Ari Kohen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Sally Engle Merry, New York University and American Ethnological Society
Ronald Niezen, McGill University
Michael Perry, Emory University
Adam Rosenblatt, Champlain College

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