Struggles, over rights: humanism, ethical dispossession and resistance

Coleman, Lara Montesinos (2015) Struggles, over rights: humanism, ethical dispossession and resistance. Third World Quarterly, 36 (6). pp. 1060-1075. ISSN 0143-6597

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What should we make of appeals to human rights in the context of struggles against dispossession or armed repression? After the ‘death of man’ as transcendent ground of all right, critics have highlighted the disciplinary effects and absolutist tendencies of human rights discourse. However, attempts have been made to ‘rescue’ human rights – and wider forms of humanistic advocacy – as an immanent, self-grounding ethical practice. Drawing on analysis of struggles over natural resource extraction and indigenous rights in Latin America, this paper argues that such accounts mirror the assumptions of a predominant mode of international humanitarian activism. By reifying humanistic ideals, without sufficient attention to the effects of practices within which rights are invoked, both obscure entanglements between humanist interventions and logics of dispossession. This is particularly significant at the current juncture. Through these interventions rights have been absorbed into a neoliberal regime of truth in which the subjects of rights are interpellated as parties to private contract, such that rights themselves become tools of exception. Taking struggle as a starting point, by contrast, highlights not only the indeterminacy of rights but also the potential of human rights discourse to disrupt these logics. Through ethnographic engagement with ‘people’s hearings’ into ‘Multinational Corporations and Crimes against Humanity’ in Colombia, I revisit the questions of ‘the human’ and ‘rights’ and propose a more dialectical approach to the relation between normative principle and immanent critique.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Depositing User: Nadya Herrera Catalan
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2015 14:51
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2015 14:51
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