Human Rights from a Third World Perspective: Critique, History and International Law

Globalization, interdisciplinarity, and the critique of the Eurocentric canon are transforming the theory and practice of human rights. This collection takes up the point of view of the colonized in order to unsettle and supplement the conventional understanding of human rights. Putting together insights coming from Decolonial Thinking, the Third World Approach to International Law (TWAIL), Radical Black Theory and Subaltern Studies, the authors construct a new history and theory of human rights, and a more comprehensive understanding of international human rights law in the background of modern colonialism and the struggle for global justice. An exercise of dialogical and interdisciplinary thinking, this collection of articles by leading scholars puts into conversation important areas of research on human rights, namely philosophy or theory of human rights, history, and constitutional and international law. This book combines critical consciousness and moral sensibility, and offers methods of interpretation or hermeneutical strategies to advance the project of decolonizing human rights, a veritable tool-box to create new Third-World discourses of human rights.

José-Manuel Barreto, PhD, is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Unit for Global Justice, Goldsmiths College, University of London. His research gravitates around the history and theory of human rights in the context of modern imperialism and colonial genocide, and one of his interests is to retrieve the Third-World tradition of human rights. He has published On Rights, Duties and Guarantees (Colombian Commission of Jurists, 1998) and his writing has appeared in works such as Critical Legal Theory (Routledge, 2011) and Critical International Law: Post-Realism, Post-Colonialism, and Transnationalism (Oxford University Press, 2012).

“The history of human rights is a subject that has been receiving a great deal of attention. Nevertheless, what is curious about some of this work is its provincial approach to an inherently cosmopolitan subject matter. This superb collection helps address the resulting problem, with outstanding essays that provide different accounts of the complex roles of the Third World and Third World thinkers in the history and development of international human rights law. It is an indispensable volume for anyone seeking to develop a global vision of international human rights law.”
– Professor Tony Anghie, University of Utah.

“An extraordinarily rich and compendious volume, a kind of post-colonial ‘book of hours’ for human rights. The contributors’ diverse critical perspectives – historical, philosophical, cultural, aesthetic, literary as well as juridical – together accomplish a polychromatic retelling of human rights history and reimagining of human rights discourse, and each contribution is a textured illumination in its own right.”
- Dr Scott Newton, SOAS, University of London

“For too long human rights have arguably remained ambivalent instruments for the prevention and denunciation of genocides, violence and abuses to legal subjects, particularly at the heart of Western societies, while also becoming efficient tools in advancing cultural imposition and delegitimizing progressive struggles with alternative grammars of democracy. Instead of naively celebrating human rights, or simply dismissing them as purely European constructs or as liberal tools to prevent radical change, the contributors in this volume seek to identify alternative genealogies of and sources for thinking and rethinking human rights, while also providing new critical insights into standard human rights discourse. Here, we see a picture of what [it] is to think of human rights from the Third World, including the Third World in the North. The book clarifies and potently restates the imperative of decolonizing human rights discourse, and in the process making it more useful for the urgent social struggles in the Third World and beyond. A must read for everyone interested in human rights, their legacy, and their relevance for today.”
- Professor Nelson Maldonado-Torres, University of California, Berkeley.

“These essays demonstrate that from the earliest expressions of humanism in the Sixteenth century, by dissidents such as Bartolomé de las Casas, to contemporary Southern authors such as Upendra Baxi, the discourse of human rights has always been a locus of popular struggle against oppression by privileged elites.”
- Professor Morton Emanuel Winston, The College of New Jersey.

Zehra Arat

Upendra Baxi

Anthony Bogues

Sabine Broeck

Enrique Dussel

Nico Horn

Vincent Lloyd

Eduardo Mendieta

Walter Mignolo

Glenn Mitoma

William Twining

Susan Waltz

Martin Woessner

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ISBN: 1-4438-4058-0

ISBN13: 978-1-4438-4058-3

Release Date: 28th March 2013

Pages: 460

Price: £54.99