Author: Yoram Carboex
As part of my RMa degree in Political Culture and National Identities I followed the course History of Human Rights last semester. In this course, given by Dr. Paul van Trigt, we set out to gain an understanding of human rights from a historical perspective.
What became especially clear in the course was the prominent position of one particular academic in the historiographical tradition of human rights: Yale historian Samuel Moyn. In his provocative book The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History Moyn seeks to challenge the prevalent notion of human rights as deeply rooted in history. According to Moyn, we can only speak of human rights in the way we currently understand them since the late 1970’s. It was at this moment that human rights – as a social movement based on an utopian idealism – came into existence. For Moyn human rights is then an utopian ideology based on internationalism; human rights as superseding the previously dominant notion of state sovereignty. Consequently, from this period onwards, the appeal to supranational institutions and their legal protections became essential. (more…)
Author: Paul van Trigt
Human rights have since their ‘birth’ been essentially contested concepts. Recently, they have become subject of intense debates in historiography. Sam Moyn’s provocative book The Last Utopia (2010) made in particular clear how important it is to investigate precisely which meaning human rights have been given in a particular context. Moyn argues that it is only since the 1970s that human rights have been defined as liberal freedoms based on individual dignity and protected by international law. Moyn therefore rejects long-term histories of human rights traced back e.g. to the French Revolution. Moreover, he relativizes the importance of human rights in the aftermath of the Second World War and during processes of decolonization. Of course the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was issued in 1948 and the concept has since then been used, but not yet on the scale and with the same meaning as it has had since the 1970s. (more…)
Author: Amany Soliman
In the year 1979, millions of Egyptians mesmerized in front of their television sets watching a TV series about the life of a blind man from a subaltern village in Upper Egypt who fought against poverty, ignorance and illness to become a symbol of enlightenment in post colonial Egypt. The Egyptian state television aired the series that was based on the autobiography of Taha Hussein while Egypt was getting ready to participate in the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981. (more…)
Author: Veronika Flegar
This is the final blog post in a series of four. In this series I seek to highlight some of the underlying assumptions of four concepts or approaches that are commonly employed to further the human rights of excluded or marginalized individuals or groups. The last three blog posts dealt with human dignity, the capabilities approach and intersectionality. This blog post will cover the notion of vulnerability. Since this is the last blog post in this series I aim to relate the notion of vulnerability to the three earlier discussed ideas and point to what the notion can or cannot add in light of the pitfalls of the other ideas. (more…)
Author: Veronika Flegar
This is the third blog post in a series of four in which I aim to highlight some of the underlying assumptions of concepts and approaches which are commonly employed to further the human rights of excluded or marginalized individuals or groups. The last two blog posts dealt with human dignity and the capabilities approach. This blog post will cover intersectionality before the last blog post will deal with the notion of vulnerability. (more…)
Author: Veronika Flegar
This blog post is the second in a series of four in which I aim to disentangle some of the underlying assumptions of contemporary concepts and approaches that can be employed for justifying or engaging with the international human rights law framework. The previous post dealt with human dignity and found that at least one criticism of human dignity is not easily resolved, namely its inherent focus on the autonomy and freedom of rational human beings. It was argued that this insufficiently accounts for the situation of persons who are marginalized and do not easily fit within this mainstream liberal view of humans as rational actors. The present blog post will deal with the capabilities approach which tries to mitigate some of these aspects. Yet, as this blog post shows, authors remain in dispute as to whether the capabilities approach sufficiently succeeds in doing so. The two subsequent blog posts of this series will then deal with intersectionality and, lastly, the notion of vulnerability.
Author: Veronika Flegar
In an earlier post on this blog Paul van Trigt pointed to the frequent neglect of viewing human rights in their larger historical context. This is not only true for historians but, arguably, even more so for human rights lawyers. Due to this neglect, human rights lawyers seem to sometimes suffer a bias towards the salience of human rights and seem to be primarily preoccupied with the interpretation of international treaties and case law. Such interpretations often neglect to question the human rights system or its underlying assumptions as such. Yet, a more critical approach towards the central ideas of international human rights law seems necessary in order to build a sustainable system that is to the benefit of all human beings – including persons or groups who are commonly marginalized or excluded.
Author: Anaïs van Ertvelde
Iek! Ik kan een kreetje niet onderdrukken wanneer het me overkomt, vaak na dagen vruchteloos ploeteren. Senioren die hun familiestamboom zitten uit te pluizen kijken licht geërgerd op. In archieven wordt doorgaans gezwegen. Frivole uitroepen van arbeidsvreugde zijn ze er niet gewend. Een historisch vondstje brengt me nu eenmaal een kinderlijk gevoel van bevrediging. Lang gehouden vermoedens die plots bevestigd of weerlegd worden door een weggegooide zin, ergens aan het einde van het vergeelde verslag van een kabinetsvergadering. Noem me sentimenteel, verwijt me een hang naar het ambachtelijke, maar ik ben zo één van die historici die graag in een archief zit. Iemand die liever hanepoten in notitieboeken krabbelt dan praktisch op een laptop typt. Lettertypes die al decennia niet meer in zwang zijn, maagdelijke bundeltjes die je voor de eerste keer losstrikt. Het is niet alleen charmant – charmanter dan een ingescande tekst door een pdf-zoeker draaien. Het is ook allemaal context, die je iets vertelt over de inhoud van wat je aan het lezen bent. Als historici iets kunnen doen, is het wel context bieden.
Author: Sam de Schutter
Today “the world faces the largest humanitarian crisis since the end of the second world war”, the UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs recently declared. This statement shows that humanitarianism is very much alive today, but that it apparently also has a history. But why am I writing about that on a blog related to the history of disability? That is because I participated in the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA), organized by the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz and the University of Exeter, in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross. Over the span of two weeks in July, spent both in Mainz and Geneva, this event brought together thirteen scholars from all over the world working on issues related to humanitarianism, international humanitarian law and human rights. I was lucky to be one of them, and got inspired to write this short blog about it.
Author: Anna Derksen
Vision of inclusion: aasivik ‘81
In the summer of 1981, fifteen disabled Greenlanders went aboard the M/S Disko, travelling along the rugged coastline of West Greenland to the abandoned village of Illorpaat about 425km north of the polar circle. Their destination was the annual aasivik, originally an Inuit summer gathering on plentiful hunting grounds. Since 1976, the tradition had been resurrected as a music festival and discussion forum for political, social and cultural issues closely linked to Greenlandic identity and independence. (more…)