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The Human Rights Paradox

Universality and Its Discontents

Edited by Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus

Publication Year: 2014

Human rights are paradoxical. Advocates across the world invoke the idea that such rights belong to all people, no matter who or where they are. But since humans can only realize their rights in particular places, human rights are both always and never universal.
            The Human Rights Paradox is the first book to fully embrace this contradiction and reframe human rights as history, contemporary social advocacy, and future prospect. In case studies that span Africa, Latin America, South and Southeast Asia, and the United States, contributors carefully illuminate how social actors create the imperative of human rights through relationships whose entanglements of the global and the local are so profound that one cannot exist apart from the other. These chapters provocatively analyze emerging twenty-first-century horizons of human rights—on one hand, the simultaneous promise and peril of global rights activism through social media, and on the other, the force of intergenerational rights linked to environmental concerns that are both local and global. Taken together, they demonstrate how local struggles and realities transform classic human rights concepts, including “victim,” “truth,” and “justice.”
            Edited by Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus, The Human Rights Paradox enables us to consider the consequences—for history, social analysis, politics, and advocacy—of understanding that human rights belong both to “humanity” as abstraction as well as to specific people rooted in particular locales.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Series: Critical Human Rights


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-2

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Introduction: Embracing Paradox: Human Rights in the Global Age

Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus

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pp. 3-28

Human rights are paradoxical. On the one hand, human rights are transcendent. Human rights gain power and purchase because they are said to belong to all people no matter who they are or where they are. On the other hand, the idea of human rights conferred on...

Part I. Who Makes Human Rights?

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1. Human Rights History from the Ground Up: The Case of East Timor

Geoffrey Robinson

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pp. 31-60

In the past few years, standard accounts of the history of human rights have been subjected to serious critique and revision. As part of that effort, a handful of historians have advanced provocative and insightful new accounts of the origins and development of human rights...

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2. Rights on Display: Museums and Human Rights Claims

Bridget Conley-Zilkic

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pp. 61-80

On April 22, 1993, President Bill Clinton stood at the podium erected in front of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). Addressing a crowd of dignitaries assembled for the museum’s opening, he stated: “[E]ven as our fragmentary awareness of these crimes grew into indisputable...

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3. Civilian Agency in Times of Crisis: Lessons from Burundi

Meghan Foster Lynch

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pp. 81-104

In June 1993 Melchior Ndadaye was the first Hutu to be elected president of Burundi. In October he was assassinated by Tutsi soldiers. In the wake of Ndadaye’s assassination, some Hutu civilians killed Tutsi civilians as an act of vengeance. In other areas, no ethnic violence occurred...

Part II. Interrogating Classic Concepts

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4. Consulting Survivors: Evidence from Cambodia, Northern Uganda, and Other Countries Affected by Mass Violence

Patrick Vinck and Phuong N. Pham

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pp. 107-124

Over the last six decades, the modern international human rights movement has told the story of hundreds of thousands of survivors of heinous crimes, including mass killings, torture, rape, inhumane imprisonment, forced expulsion, and the destruction of their homes and villages.1 Over...

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5. “Memoria, Verdad y Justicia”: The Terrain of Post-Dictatorship Social Reconstruction and the Struggle for Human Rights in Argentina

Noa Vaisman

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pp. 125-147

In Argentina the collective cry “Memory, Truth, and Justice” (Memoria, Verdad y Justicia) has occupied a central place in public discourse. In the long aftermath of the military dictatorship (1976–83) and in the context of ongoing processes of social reconstruction, this demand has been heard...

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6. The Paradoxes of Accountability: Transitional Justice in Peru

Jo-Marie Burt

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pp. 148-174

In April 2009 a special chamber of the Peruvian Supreme Court found former president Alberto Fujimori guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to twenty-five years in prison, the maximum sentence allowed by law (Burt 2009). Another Supreme Court tribunal...

Part III. New Horizons

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7. The Aporias of New Technologies for Human Rights Activism

Fuyuki Kurasawa

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pp. 177-203

In the arena of human rights politics, we are currently witnessing the confluence of two major developments. On the one hand, global civil society is continuing to expand and thicken across the world, an essential component of which are the webs of social movements and nongovernmental organizations...

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8. The Human Right to Water in Rural India: Promises and Challenges

Philippe Cullet

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pp. 204-223

India has made tremendous progress over the past few decades with regard to drinking-water supply in rural areas. Thus, while coverage in rural areas was estimated at 18 percent in 1974 (Black and Talbot 2005, 5), it has increased to at least 72 percent (Planning Commission 2012, 35). This...

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9. A Very Promising Species: From Hobbes to the Human Right to Water

Richard P. Hiskes

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pp. 224-246

Since Kant the foundation of human rights has been grounded on certain features of individuals, which are construed as conferring human dignity, the protection of which is the main justification for and purpose of human rights. Most often those features are subsumed...

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pp. 247-248

This book has been many years in the making, and we have many to thank. The first to acknowledge are the ten extraordinary scholars who contributed chapters to the book. Every edited volume depends on the quality, flexibility, and promptness of its contributors. Our collaborating authors...


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pp. 249-252


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pp. 253-266

Further Reasding

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E-ISBN-13: 9780299299736
E-ISBN-10: 0299299732
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299299743
Print-ISBN-10: 0299299740

Page Count: 273
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Critical Human Rights
Series Editor Byline: Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 875741766
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Human Rights Paradox