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Human Rights and Social Justice

Scholarship on rights (and citizenship) has almost invariably seen these claims as being founded in liberal European contexts, 'exported' by imperialism to the Global South. Much scholarship on rights in the Global South has focused on the political rights of individual citizens as enshrined in constitutions, and other foundational legal documents.  Yet the language of rights has been used and contested outside institutional arenas by a range of political actors. One goal of the Consortium is to explore alternative histories and conceptions of rights in the global South.

Scholarship on rights (and citizenship) have almost invariably seen these claims as being founded in liberal European contexts, 'exported' by imperialism to the global South. Much scholarship on rights in the global South has focused on the political rights of individual citizens as enshrined in constitutions, and other foundational legal documents. Yet the language of rights has been used and contested outside institutional arenas by a range of political actors. ‘Rights claims’ resonate across all aspects of social life, and are used in formal, state-oriented mobilisations just as much as informal and/or social activism.

One goal of the Consortium is to explore alternative histories and conceptions of rights in the Global South. We intend to open up the idea of rights to a range of claim-making activities to destabilize the conception of rights as inevitably linked to the individual and the autonomous.  How, for instance, have marginalised and oppressed groups sought to mobilise the language of rights to protect themselves and their ‘communities’, variously imagined?  Moreover, rights claims can and were made in contexts of multiple sovereignties in pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial societies. How, then, can experiences and ideas from the Global South help us develop a more capacious understanding of rights?

The late twentieth century saw an explosion of rights discourses across the Global South. It is tempting to see this as a new phenomenon, and a product of distinctively late twentieth-century circumstances. And indeed, if we focus only on the ‘political rights of individual citizens enshrined in constitutions’, then the history of rights in Africa is primarily a history of the second half of the twentieth century. But as a growing body of scholarship makes clear, this focus does not do justice to the diverse ways in which a language of rights is used in practice in the Global South and beyond. This in turn encourages us to go back and explore a longer history of rights claims which were made even in the absence of political rights enshrined in constitutions, as a way of challenging local rulers and colonial governments.  

Themes that will be examined include:

  • Precolonial ideas of political rights
  • Southern/non-western conceptions of rights, including different religious and political traditions of thought and practice
  • Notions of subjecthood, fraternity, the household and rights
  • Rights discourse and claims by marginalised groups including refugees and minorities
  • Rights debates under states of exceptions such as dictatorships, ‘emergencies’ and neo-colonial settings
  • Freedom of speech and the right to offend

 

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Tri-Continental Tea Seminar: The Politics of Science and Technology in the Global South

Nov 27, 2017

The Consortium for the Global South invites you to participate in the first of its Tricontinental Tea Seminars. This informal series is intended to connect researchers working in different departments and disciplines within the University departments, to share knowledge, and to explore the potential for future collaborative projects.