ChapterPDF Available

Afterword: Our Vernacular Futures

Authors:

Abstract

Travel and transformation—these are the two problems in human rights that animate this lively, empirically rich, and consequential interdisciplinary volume. How, when, and why do human rights norms circulate among the quite diverse types of networks that have come to constitute what can only loosely be described as the human rights system? And when these norms circulate, what kinds of transformations follow? Do the norms change in quality and quantity? What about the range of actors who are involved in these circulations? Are they also transformed in some sense? Do they come to think of themselves in different ways? Do they gain in legal, political, or cultural agency? And more broadly, how does a deeper understanding of human rights travel and transformation enlarge ongoing debates about human rights theory and practice at a moment in which the status of human rights remains as “unsettled” (Sarat and Kearns 2001) as ever?
Human Rights Transformation
in an Unequal World
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 1 3/2/18 3:02 PM
PENNSYLVANIA STUDIES IN HUMAN RIGHTS
Bert B. Lockwood, Jr., Series Editor
A comlete list of books in the series
is available from the publisher.
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 2 3/2/18 3:02 PM
Human Rights
Transformation
in an
Unequal World
Edited by
Sally Engle Merry
and Tine Destrooper
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA PRESS
PHILADELPHIA
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 3 3/2/18 3:02 PM
Copyright © 2018 University of Pennsylvania Press
All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations used
for purposes of review or scholarly citation, none of this
book may be reproduced in any form by any means without
written permission from the publisher.
Published by
University of Pennsylvania Press
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104- 4112
www .upenn .edu /pennpress
Printed in the United States of America on acid- free paper
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging- in- Publication Data
ISBN 978- 0- 8122- 5057- 2
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 4 3/2/18 3:02 PM
CONTENTS
Preface vii
Sally Engle Merry
List of Abbreviations x
Introduction. On Travel, Translation, and Transformation
Tine Destrooper
PART I. INITIATIVES BY FORMAL HUMAN RIGHTS NORM SETTERS
Chapter . The Escher–Human Rights Escalator: Technologies
of the Local 
Vasuki Nesiah
Chapter . Accommodating Local Human Rights Practice
at the UN Human Rights Council 
Arne Vandenbogaerde
Chapter . Human Rights- Based Approaches to Development:
The Local, Travel, and Transformation 
Wouter Vandenhole
PART II. INTERACTIONS BETWEEN SOCIAL MOBILIZATION
AND LEGAL CLAIM MAKING
Chapter . Lost Through Translation: Political Dialectics
of Eco- Social and Collective Rights in Ecuador 
Johannes M. Waldmüller
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 5 3/2/18 3:02 PM
vi Contents
Chapter . Upstreaming or Streamlining? Translating Social
Movement Agendas into Legal Claims in Nepal
and the Dominican Republic 
Samuel Martínez
Chapter . New Visibilities: Challenging Torture
and Impunity in Vietnam 
Ken MacLean
PART III. HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISM AND THE PROLIFERATION
OF NONCONFRONTATIONAL METHODS
Chapter . Rural- Urban Migration and Education in China:
Unraveling Responses to Injurious Experiences 
Ellen Desmet
Chapter . Localization “Light”: The Travel and Transformation
of Nonempowering Human Rights Norms 
Tine Destrooper
Chapter . Global Rights, Local Risk: Community Advocacy
on Right to Health in China 
Sara L. M. Davis and Charmain Mohamed
Afterword. Our Vernacular Futures 
Mark Goodale
List of Contributors 
Index 
Acknowledgments 
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 6 3/2/18 3:02 PM
AFTERWORD
Our Vernacular Futures
Mark Goodale
Travel and transformation—these are the two problems in human rights that
animate this lively, empirically rich, and consequential interdisciplinary vol-
ume. How, when, and why do human rights norms circulate among the quite
diverse types of networks that have come to constitute what can only loosely
be described as the human rights system? And when these norms circulate,
what kinds of transformations follow? Do the norms change in quality and
quantity? What about the range of actors who are involved in these circu-
lations? Are they also transformed in some sense? Do they come to think
of themselves in dierent ways? Do they gain in legal, political, or cultural
agency? And more broadly, how does a deeper understanding of human
rights travel and transformation enlarge ongoing debates about human rights
theory and practice at a moment in which the status of human rights remains
as “unsettled” (Sarat and Kearns 2001) as ever?
What I want to do here is to provide enough historical and theoretical
context to allow us to better appreciate the necessity for this collective inter-
vention, one that is anchored in the lived realities of human rights practice in
all of its complexity, possibility, and uncertainty. As we will see, the attempt to
think anew about the practice of human rights through its concepts and cate-
gories comes at a turning point in the longer postwar history of human rights.
To consider the volumes several key problématiques in 2016 is a very dierent
thing than to have done so from the perspective of, say, 1995, or even 2007. It
is vital that critical engagements keep pace with the ever- changing landscape
of human rights in a world marked by the rise of nationalist and populist
movements from Britain to India; growing global inequality and its manifold
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 251 3/2/18 3:02 PM
252 Mark Goodale
consequences for health, political stability, and the shrinking possibilities
for socioeconomic transformation; and looming yet unpredictable conicts
associated with human- induced climate change.
Aer framing this context as I understand it, I will make the argument
that the chapters in this volume are on what I believe is the more productive
side of an important, if subtle, divide in the study of human rights. On one
side are approaches to human rights that seek, in one way or another, to use
scholarship in order to make legal implementation more eective, claims for
institutional legitimacy better grounded, and the lines of political account-
ability clearer. What unites this side of the divide is a general agreement on
the validity of the postwar framework of human rights. e thrust of research
and scholarship is to provide the epistemological tools to rm up an inter-
national legal and political system that could be made better. ere are two
dilemmas with research and scholarship rmly rooted on what might be
called the establishment side of this divide.
First, the scope of analysis is limited by the fact that the form and con-
tent of studies are shaped and, at times, predetermined by the purposes to
which such studies are undertaken. is makes it dicult to assess estab-
lishment human rights scholarship by conventional measures; it would be
better, rather, to see work in this mode as akin to internal policy studies that
are meant to help an institution function better. And second, establishment
scholarship tends to either give scant attention to critiques of human rights,
or dismiss them as disingenuous eorts to justify troubling practices or histo-
ries in the name of culture, anticolonialism, or normative dierence.
e other side of the divide is marked by human rights scholarship
that is more open and indeterminate. e content, structure, and meaning
of human rights are not taken as given; instead, interventions within what
might be described as alternative human rights scholarship examine the
unsettled status of human rights as a legitimate empirical and conceptual
problem. Alternative human rights scholarship tends to be agnostic about
the underlying value claims and political aspirations that ground existing
human rights activism, yet open to the possibility that critical research might
very well point the way toward a radically recongured global human rights
project. It is not surprising that alternative human rights scholarship oen
pays close attention to the practice of human rights, since it is in the micro-
normative details that both the creative possibilities and ultimate limitations
of human rights are to be found. And as the chapters in this volume demon-
strate, a renewed and systematic focus on the practice of human rights has
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 252 3/2/18 3:02 PM
Our Vernacular Futures 253
implications that go well beyond the merely epistemological. ere is also a
certain urgency to the task in light of historical and ideological developments
that seem to forebode the end of what UN Secretary- General Ko Annan
described as the “age of human rights” (Annan 2000).
In the analyses of some critical scholars, the perennially unsettled status
of human rights has become something more ominous. As Stephen Hopgood
has written, evoking an apocalyptic imaginary,
we are living through the endtimes of the civilizing mission . . . [in
which] the prospect of one world under secular human rights law is
receding. What seemed like a dawn is in fact a sunset. e founda-
tions of universal liberal norms and global governance are crumbling,
creating a vacancy where sovereignty and religion now make dramatic
inroads in the post–Cold War world. (Hopgood 2013, 1)
And at much more concrete levels, anthropologists like Lori Allen (2013) and
Harri Englund (2006) have given us nely wrought ethnographic accounts of
the implementation and promotion of human rights norms that reveal their
“rise and fall” (Allen) within ongoing political and legal conicts, or the way
in which the language of human rights can make “prisoners” (Englund) out of
those who deploy it. What is notable and challenging about the critical anal-
yses that have emerged from the anthropology of human rights in particular
is the fact that they are grounded in oen long- term empirical research and
a heightened sensitivity to the structural ambiguities that constitute human
rights vernacularization. is empirical thickness stands in some contrast to
what appear now as the more ideologically infused critiques of human rights
and international law, oen framed in the rhetoric of postcolonial resistance
(e.g., Anghie 2005; Mutua 2001).
More broadly, the fragile structure of the post–Cold War human rights
system has come under attack at the level of regional and international politi-
cal economies with consequences that threaten to undermine eorts to make
human rights norms a foundation for progressive change. For example, as
dierent scholars have shown, from Southeast Asia to Latin America, there
is oen what might be called an intentional gap between legal judgments (for
example, those issued by the Inter- American Court of Human Rights) and
their inuence on ongoing conicts, particularly those that concern valu-
able economic resources (e.g., Adcock 2014; Leeman 2014; Medina 2014).
What I have described elsewhere (Goodale 2017) as “state- capital resource
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 253 3/2/18 3:02 PM
254 Mark Goodale
assemblages” are created that are meant to nancialize human rights legisla-
tion and jurisprudence by seeing enforcement as just another form of capital
risk management. At the extremes, the enforcement of human rights legis-
lation has led to a boon in the transference of rights over valuable resources
to small groups of transnational companies. is is because provisions of
national human rights laws require communities to settle conicts and pro-
duce local development plans in ways that, from the perspective of trans-
national capital, create what the critical development scholars Borras and
Franco (2010) have described as a “one- stop shop.” In this sense, the threat to
human rights comes not from the absence of legal enforcement, but precisely
because and in terms of it.
e ongoing conicts around the International Criminal Court (ICC)
underscore even more directly the way in which the momentum of the post–
Cold War human rights movement has stalled. e creation of the ICC in
2002 as the world’s rst permanent international criminal court was hailed at
the time as a major triumph in the eort to establish a global framework for
the prosecution of major human rights violations (see generally Clarke 2009;
Wilson 2011). Yet the inuence of narrow national and regional political
interests marred the development of the ICC during the rst een years of
its existence. On the one hand, the nonparticipation of leading global powers
has limited the scope of prosecutions. China, Russia, and the United States,
all permanent members of the UN Security Council (which plays an import-
ant role in ICC jurisdiction), are not parties to the ICC treaty and are—for
dierent reasons—actively opposed to its jurisdictional expansion.
On the other hand, the leaders of countries that have been prosecuted
have led a campaign to discredit the ICC as a tool of neo- imperialism. In a
2014 analysis of this anti- ICC campaign by certain African countries, Ken-
neth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, worried that this
campaign could be “devastating for international justice,” since the largest
block of members to the ICC treaty is from Africa, and African countries
were instrumental in negotiating the treaty and establishing the court. Nev-
ertheless, this broad early support across the continent faded when it became
clear that African leaders were the prime (available) candidates for prose-
cution for gross human rights violations. As Roth put it, “the court’s future
. . . rests to a large extent on the battle being waged between African lead-
ers with little interest in justice and those Africans, including many activists
and victims, who see an end to impunity for mass atrocities as essential for
Africa’s future.” Yet by 2016, it seemed as if this battle was being won by the
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 254 3/2/18 3:02 PM
Our Vernacular Futures 255
African leaders with little interest in justice.” Although not exactly a “mass
African defection” from the treaty, countries such as South Africa, Burundi,
and Gambia had notied the UN of their formal intention to withdraw from
the court at the same time that countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia,
and Namibia were actively considering similarly abandoning the ICC.
us, from the local, discursive level to the level of international relations,
the standing of human rights confronts its worst existential crisis since the
end of the Cold War. In some sense, the “backlash against human rights,” as
a leading European human rights center has described it (Venice Academy of
Human Rights 2016), was an inevitable response to the failure of the liberal
end of history” to materialize. Instead of the realization of the dreams of
a neo- Kantian world of “perpetual peace” grounded in a global culture of
human rights, supranational citizenship, and the wide acceptance of univer-
sal equality, the world had to come to terms with the sobering realities of Abu
Ghraib, growing structural economic inequality (Piketty 2014), the ravages
of “savage sorting” (Sassen 2014), Brexit, the illegal military annexation of
Crimea by Russia, the sight of little refugee children washing up on the shores
of Europe, and the election of Donald Trump. At least some of the sense of
human rights in crisis can be attributed to the growing disenchantment with
the considerable gap between the promises made during the golden years of
the “age of human rights” and the stark, even brutal world of today, one in
which identitarian and antihumanist politics ourish, mature democracies
irt with ideological hooliganism, and the so- called Asian Century contin-
ues to unfold around ethnic exclusion, resource depletion, and authoritarian
command capitalism.
And yet disenchantment alone cannot explain why we supposedly nd
ourselves in the endtimes of human rights. Other answers are to be sought in
the structure of international human rights law itself as it developed during
the wilderness years of the Cold War, a system built on top- down treaty cre-
ation and the eventual movement to implement and monitor treaties from
central nodes in places like Geneva and New York City. e international
human rights system emerged within a framework that was highly central-
ized at both global and regional levels. As its history demonstrates, this orien-
tation built friction and perverse political incentives into its very institutional
foundation.
Finally, at a normative level, the largely juridical and declarative form
of human rights tended to amplify a certain autopoietic tendency that was
present from the draing of the early foundational documents themselves, a
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 255 3/2/18 3:02 PM
256 Mark Goodale
constitutive autoreferentiality that belied later claims that the “international
Magna Carta for all mankind” (as Eleanor Roosevelt memorably described
the UDHR) was the result of a global, cross- cultural consensus on basic prin-
ciples. Rather, the normatively closed form of international human rights
law brought it into structural tension with the much more open, norma-
tively chaotic, and oen nonjuridical practice of human rights that emerged
and developed during the transformative years of the post–Cold War (see
Goodale 2016).
is, then, is the conceptual and historical background, as I understand
it, to this collective eort to reconsider the empirical realities of human rights
travel and, more important, the potential for dierent kinds of transforma-
tion that these practices and circulations suggest. And as Destrooper and
Merry argue in the book’s Introduction, attending to these decentralized cir-
culations and appropriations, despite their heterogeneity and ambiguity, is
the only way to work our way back to what they describe as the essentially
counter- hegemonic nature” of what might be thought of as actually exist-
ing human rights—that is, human rights as an always contested language of
everyday ethics that gets put to use within particular struggles with uncer-
tain outcomes. ese are the spaces of practice and contestation that oen
have at most a connotative (Goodale 2007) relationship to human rights law,
whether in the form of international treaties and declarations or in the form
of national legislation whose purpose is to enact domestic treaty obligations.
In their call to be “faithful” to the underlying emancipatory and progres-
sive purposes of human rights, Destrooper and Merry emphasize the criti-
cal form of human rights scholarship that seeks to use the study of human
rights travel and transformation to eect what Gunzelin Schmid Noerr (2002,
230) has described as a “change in function.” What this would mean here is
the move toward a much broader, provocative, and confrontational vision of
human rights, one in which “socio- economic injustices, exploitation, oppres-
sion and inequality” become the central concern well beyond the classically
liberal civil and political rights that were the principal focus for institutional
and civil society actors for much of the postwar history of human rights. And
as new historians of human rights like Steven Jensen (2016) and Christopher
Roberts (2015) have shown, what Destrooper and Merry propose is in many
ways a contemporary and urgent rediscovery of some of the original impulses
that animated early arguments for human rights, arguments that took place
both before the UDHR was ratied and which then continued in key centers
of postcolonial resistance and theorizing in the Global South.
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 256 3/2/18 3:02 PM
Our Vernacular Futures 257
As the chapters in this volume suggest, an alternative approach to the
study of the practice of human rights, one attuned to the deep political eco-
nomic inequalities that shape this practice, must develop an epistemological
framework that both acknowledges the fragile status of human rights and
oers a way forward for scholars and policymakers alike. is is no easy task.
As Vandenbogaerdes chapter on the UN Human Rights Council shows, the
multiple institutional and political layers that form the foundation of the
existing international human rights system create the likelihood of bureau-
cratic resistance to normative innovation from below.
At the same time, as Vandenholes study of “human rights–based
approaches to development” reminds us, a focus on what he describes as
grassroots dynamics” does not ensure greater “local eectiveness” (quoting
De Feyter 2011). Rather, as Vandenhole argues, the vectors of inuence that
shape human rights norms as they travel and circulate can threaten to trans-
form “the very notion of human rights” beyond recognition. In this sense, the
concept of the “local” is doubly problematic. On the one hand, particularly
when joined to “the global” (another problematic concept) in a neat and tidy
conceptual binary, the local as an imagined site of action comes into descrip-
tive tension with the kinds of circulations that actually constitute human
rights networks. And on the other hand, “the local” is invested with a certain
ideological power in which local actors are assumed to be committed to social
justice, willing to sacrice self- interest for the sake of community, and grate-
ful for the interventions of the much less innocent “justice junkies” (Baylis
2008) with whom they collaborate. But as Waldmüller’s chapter on rights
experimentation in Ecuador shows, this kind of human rights orientalism,
which constructs and sorts human rights actors based on dubious narratives
of moral renewal and human goodness, does violence to the actual human
and moral complexities that are revealed through a clear- eyed sensitivity to
actual practices. Even in places like Ecuador and Bolivia, in which arguably
post- neoliberal normative innovation has been pushed to its greatest limits,
the “politics of rights always involves the establishment of hierarchies and
prioritization of values,” as Waldmüller puts it.
e possibilities for normative transformation through human rights
travel and vernacularization are challenged even further when case stud-
ies are taken into consideration that come from outside the post–Cold War
human rights hot zones in which the inuence of the “age of human rights”
was the greatest. Indeed, it is a particular strength of this volume that it fea-
tures chapters that reect meaningfully on the status of human rights in
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 257 3/2/18 3:02 PM
258 Mark Goodale
places like China and Vietnam. As MacLeans chapter on domestic responses
to police torture in Vietnam argues, the absence of a history of human rights
mobilization can mean that justice movements might coalescence around
quite dierent logics of representation and confrontation—in this case, the
development of Web 2.0 technologies that were designed to put pressure on
the state to punish oenders. Moreover, what he calls the “(non)adoption of
human rights discourse” by Vietnamese activists was strongly conditioned by
the fact that the country is still very much organized around a “socialist legal-
ity” that has little use for what is seen as a bourgeois Western legal import.
e role of China in any debates around human rights transformation
and the possibilities for new and expanded human rights practices is abso-
lutely critical. Despite a tradition of “rights hunting” in China undertaken
by human rights scholars and activists seeking to prove to the Chinese that
human rights norms are in fact more consistent with their legal and politi-
cal history than they might otherwise believe, these eorts have been largely
“misdirected” (Hood 2001). Rather, it is more convincing to understand
the relationship between human rights travel and contemporary China in a
longer historical framework in which the ideas and values of human rights
struggle to form part of a “common heritage” that links distinct philosophical
and cultural traditions. Otherwise, as Hood puts it, to make the universal-
istic argument that Chinese history, and Confucianism in particular, con-
tain a distinct rights tradition “is the same as to suggest that the monarchical
regimes of the West knew rights were better but for one reason or another
people decided not to claim them” (Hood 2001, 119).
Indeed, as Evan Osnoss (2014) brilliant ethnographic reportage on his
ve years as a correspondent in China (2008–2013) reveals in such unfor-
gettable detail, Chinas “Gilded Age” is marked by a series of fundamental
tensions between various ideological and philosophical legacies and a more
general striving for socioeconomic advancement that has given the individ-
ual more potential power and autonomy than at any time in Chinese his-
tory. At the center of these pervasive existential crises is a paradox that aects
everything from Chinese foreign policy to eorts by ordinary people to nd
meaning in a society marked by rapid economic development and massive
inequalities: the fact that China is both a communist country committed
to Marxist- Leninism and “socialism with Chinese characteristics” and, at
the same time, the world’s most successful capitalist economy, with average
growth of 10 percent per year over thirty years and the most billionaires of
any country in the world.
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 258 3/2/18 3:02 PM
Our Vernacular Futures 259
Yet as the chapters by Desmet and Davis and Mohamed demonstrate, the
role of human rights in mediating contemporary Chinas “age of ambition
is unclear. In her study of “education- related experiences of social exclusion
in the context of internal migration,” Desmet shows how both governmental
restrictions and cultural expectations combined to limit the extent to which
a largely “international” and “hypothetical” language of human rights inu-
enced local conicts over the education of rural migrant children. Much
like MacLeans account of the “(non)adoption of human rights discourse,
Desmet urges us to pay attention to what might be thought of as the nonprac-
tice of human rights, particularly “in settings where these concepts are not
predisposed to play a role.
But when claims that do not involve political, social, or cultural rights
are considered, research has shown a modest practice of human rights to
have taken root in China. In their study of a health- rights advocacy network
focused on government responses to the claims of people living with, or
vulnerable to, HIV, Davis and Mohamed argue that health- rights organiza-
tions were only successful by respecting the “local bounds of the permissi-
ble,” which meant emphasizing “deeply localized” approaches to health rights
that were not formally linked to global rights movements. Yet it seems clear
that health- rights networks in China were allowed to ourish (at least until
a crackdown in 2016) precisely because the kinds of claims they engendered
worked to reinforce, rather than threaten, the underlying balance between
authoritarian—even if “fragmented”—capitalism and one- party rule. Any
health crisis that takes potentially valuable workers out of the labor market is
bad for business. To allow these health claims to be framed in the language
of rights was permissible because, as Davis and Mohamed put it, to do so did
not represent a “fundamental challenge to existing power relations.
In light of these research reports, which give us further perspectives on
what Rachel Wahl (2016) has described as “human rights from the other
side,” that is, from the other side of a line that separates clear cases of progres-
sive human rights change from more ambiguous practices and histories, an
uncomfortable but necessary question must now be asked: What is the ulti-
mate purpose of a better understanding of human rights travel and transfor-
mation? If the objective is to develop innovative scholarship that can also be
used by policymakers to address the most critical challenges of our time, an
argument can be made that a broader vision of the relationship between law,
politics, and action is needed, a vision that nds resonance in this volume.
Indeed, as Martínez’s chapter on the plight of both kamaiyas in Nepal and
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 259 3/2/18 3:02 PM
260 Mark Goodale
Haitian- Dominicans suggests, the use of human rights to frame structural
social and economic conicts can lead to a narrowing of options that can
work against progressive advocacy. As his chapter reveals, the implication is
that human rights advocates must learn to both understand and even support
the (non)adoption of human rights discourse in certain cases and, when it is
adopted, to treat its value and relevance with “greater skepticism.
How to understand the nuances of these distinctions will be a key task
for the study and practice of human rights in the coming years. e promo-
tion of human rights will need to be modulated to take account of dier-
ent economic, cultural, and political contexts. Without being able to outline
precisely how these modulations should be made, what is certain is that the
post–Cold War project to promote human rights as a global value framework
with universal application is coming to a close. Vastly dierent political econ-
omies would seem to mark the boundaries between dierent forms of what
comes next.
In countries like Denmark, for example, as Julie Mertus (2009) has shown,
human rights are controversial within domestic politics because many people
believe that Danish culture oers superior alternative values that are based on
community solidarity, consensus, and compromise. In this way, human rights
are seen as a framework to be exported into countries that do not enjoy the
same economic and cultural advantages. In Mertus’s analysis, many Danes feel
that their country is too good for human rights. And as Destrooper’s chapter on
“nonempowering human rights norms” and development in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo suggests, we must consider the fact that certain coun-
tries, locations, and contexts might not be ready for the imposition of human
rights as a basis for socioeconomic transition. Although she is critical of a local
health ocer’s dismissal of human rights as irrelevant to local development
that involves the most basic of human needs, I read his stark words somewhat
dierently. Even if it might be true that rights mobilization for “strategic inter-
ests” is an important long- term goal, there is something equally important to
be learned when someone working on the very frontlines of human misery
explains that “In the end, it’s only the [water] pumps that matter.
Despite the many dierent settings in which the practice of human
rights takes place, the response—both academic and policy- oriented—to
these demands for ne- tuning our normative sensibilities at the same time
that human rights advocacy in certain circumstances is “cut down to size”
(Englund 2013) points in one clear direction: toward a recongured theory
and practice of human rights that is pluralist, decentralized, and perhaps even
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 260 3/2/18 3:02 PM
Our Vernacular Futures 261
de- juridied.” is fact gives new meaning to how we understand both the
reality and purpose of human rights travel and transformation. To emphasize
the necessity for human rights to evolve into new and plural forms is not the
same thing as to say that human rights will or should become more localized.
As Nesiahs chapter on ICC institutions in Africa reminds us, the notion of
the local in the practice of human rights is highly problematic. Rather, it is
to give full and even radical meaning to the concept of human rights vernac-
ularization. is is not a way of understanding human rights pluralism that
comes simply from the travel of established norms from the global to the local
or from the local to the global, or through any other essentially metaphorical
variant that attempts to account for the dynamism of existing human rights
practices. It is, instead, a way to reimagine the grounding and legitimacy of
human rights norms themselves—what they are and what they might be.
Works Cited
Adcock, Fleur. 2014. “Rights through the United Nations: e Domestic Inuence of the Special
Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” Paper presented at the American Anthro-
pological Association Annual Meeting. Washington, DC.
Allen, Lori A. 2013. e Rise and Fall of Human Rights: Cynicism and Politics in Occupied Pales-
tine. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Anghie, Antony. 2005 . Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law. Cam-
bridge: Cambridge University Press.
Annan, Ko. 2000. “e Age of Human Rights.Project Syndicate. http:// www .project - syndicate
.org /commentary /the - age - of - human - rights ?barrier = true.
Baylis, Elena. 2008. “Tribunal- Hopping with the Post- Conict Justice Junkies.Oregon Review
of International Law 10: 361–390.
Borras, Saturino M., and Jennifer Franco. 2010. “Contemporary Discourses and Contestations
around Pro- Poor Land Policies and Land Governance. Journal of Agrarian Change 10 (1):
1–32.
Clarke, Kamari Maxine. 2009. Fictions of Justice: e International Criminal Court and the Chal-
lenge of Legal Pluralism in Sub- Saharan Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
De Feyter, Koen. 2011. “Sites of Rights Resistance.” In e Local Relevance of Human Rights,
edited by Koen De Feyter, Stephan Parmentier, Christiane Timmerman, and George Ulrich,
11–39. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Englund, Harri. 2006. Prisoners of Freedom: Human Rights and the African Poor. Berkeley: Uni-
versity of California Press.
——. 2013. “Cutting Human Rights Down to Size.” In Human Rights at the Crossroads, edited
by Mark Goodale, 198–209. New York: Oxford University Press.
Goodale, Mark. 2007. “e Power of Right(s): Tracking Empires of Law and New Modes of
Social Resistance in Bolivia (and elsewhere).” In e Practice of Human Rights: Tracking Law
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 261 3/2/18 3:02 PM
262 Mark Goodale
Between the Global and the Local, edited by Mark Goodale and Sally Engle Merry, 130–162.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
——. 2016. “Human Values and Moral Exclusion.Ethics & Global Politics 9 (1).
——. 2017. “Dark Matter: Toward a New Political Economy of Indigenous Rights and Aspira-
tional Politics.Critique of Anthropology 36 (4): 439–457.
Hood, Steven J. 2001. Rights Hunting in Non- Western Traditions.” In Negotiating Human
Rights and Culture, edited by Lynda S. Bell, Andrew J. Nathan, and Ilan Peleg, 96–122. New
York: Columbia University Press.
Hopgood, Stephen. 2013. e Endtimes of Human Rights. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Jensen, Steven L. B. 2016. e Making of International Human Rights: e 1960s, Decolonization,
and the Reconstruction of Global Values. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Leeman, Esther. 2014. “Global Discourse, Local Realities: e Paradoxical Outcomes of Indige-
nous Land Titling Eorts in Cambodia.” Paper presented at the Swiss Ethnological Society
Annual Meeting. Basel, Switzerland.
Medina, Laurie. 2014. “Law, Jurisprudence, and the Production of Indigenous Land Rights:
Maya Indigenous Communities v. Belize.” Paper presented at the American Anthropologi-
cal Association Annual Meeting. Washington, DC.
Mertus, Julie. 2009. Human Rights Matters: Local Politics and National Human Rights Institu-
tions. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Mutua, Makau. 2001. “Savages, Victims, and Saviors: e Metaphor of Human Rights.Harvard
International Law Journal 42 (1): 201–245.
Osnos, Evan. 2014. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Faith, and Truth in the New China. New
York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Piketty, omas. 2014. Capital in the Twenty- First Century. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Har-
vard University Press.
Roberts, Christopher. 2015. e Contentious History of the International Bill of Human Rights.
New York: Cambridge University Press.
Roth, Kenneth. 2014. Africa Attacks the International Criminal Court. New York Review of
Books 61 (2) (February 6).
Sarat, Austin, and omas R. Kearns. 2001. “e Unsettled Status of Human Rights.” In Human
Rights: Concepts, Contests, Contingencies, edited by Austin Sarat and omas Kearns, 1–24.
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Sassen, Saskia. 2014. Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy. Cambridge:
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Schmid Noerr, Gunzelin. 2002. “e Position of ‘Dialectic of Enlightenment’ in the Develop-
ment of Critical eory.” In Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, edited by
Max Horkheimer and eodor Adorno, 217–247. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Venice Academy of Human Rights. 2016. Backlash Against Human Rights? July 4–13. www .eiuc
.org /research /venice - academy - of - human - rights .html.
Wahl, Rachel. 2016. Just Violence: Torture and Human Rights in the Eyes of the Police. Stanford:
Stanford University Press.
Wilson, Richard A. 2011. Writing History in International Criminal Trials. New York: Cambridge
University Press.
Merry-Destrooper_Text.indd 262 3/2/18 3:02 PM
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Book
Full-text available
By taking up the challenge of documenting how human rights values are embedded in rule of law movements to produce a new language of international justice that competes with a range of other formations, this book explores how notions of justice are negotiated through everyday micropractices and grassroots contestations of those practices. These micropractices include speech acts that revere the protection of international rights, citation references to treaty documents, the brokering of human rights agendas, the rewriting of national constitutions, demonstrations of religiosity that make explicit the piety of religious subjects, and ritual practices of forgiveness that involve the invocation of ancestral religious cosmologies - all practices that detail the ways that justice, as a social fiction, is made real within particular relations of power. © Kamari Maxine Clarke 2009 and Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Article
Full-text available
The meaning of land and land policies is diverse and contested across and within local and (inter)national settings. The phrase ‘land policy’, used to refer to all policies that have anything to do with land, may be convenient, but it masks the actual complexity of issues. Meanwhile, concern for ‘pro-poor’ land policy has coincided with the mainstream promotion of efficient administration of land policies, leading to the concept of ‘land governance’. Such concepts have enriched discussion on land issues, but they also complicate further an already complex terrain. In response, this paper offers possible analytical signposts, rather than an actual in-depth and elaborated analytical exploration of this terrain. It hopes to be a modest step forward and towards a better understanding of contemporary policy discourses and political contestations around land and land governance.
Book
Few names are so closely connected with the cause of human rights as that of Mary Robinson. As former President of Ireland, she was ideally positioned for passionately and eloquently arguing the case for human rights around the world. Over five tumultuous years that included the tragic events of 9/11, she offered moral leadership and vision to the global human rights movement. This volume is a unique account in Robinson's own words of her campaigns as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. A Voice for Human Rights offers an edited collection of Robinson's public addresses, given between 1997 and 2002, when she served as High Commissioner. The book also provides the first in-depth account of the work of the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights. With a foreword by Kofi Annan and an afterword by Louise Arbour, the current High Commissioner for Human Rights, the book will be of interest to all concerned with international human rights, international relations, development, and politics. Copyright.
Book
This book argues that the colonial confrontation was central to the formation of international law and, in particular, its founding concept, sovereignty. Traditional histories of the discipline present colonialism and non-European peoples as peripheral concerns. By contrast, Anghie argues that international law has always been animated by the ‘civilizing mission’ - the project of governing non-European peoples, and that the economic exploitation and cultural subordination that resulted were constitutively significant for the discipline. In developing these arguments, the book examines different phases of the colonial encounter, ranging from the sixteenth century to the League of Nations period and the current ‘war on terror’. Anghie provides a new approach to the history of international law, illuminating the enduring imperial character of the discipline and its continuing importance for peoples of the Third World. This book will be of interest to students of international law and relations, history, post-colonial studies and development studies.
Article
After the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the international community increasingly began to use the language of human rights to address issues of human dignity. A vast body of international and constitutional human rights law was enacted: the acquis of international human rights law, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, currently consists of no fewer than eight core conventions and numerous protocols. A plethora of intergovernmental, national and civil society institutions have committed to human rights as a policy objective and engage in human rights activities. At the start of the new millennium, world heads of state and government resolved ‘to spare no effort’ to respect all internationally recognised human rights, and ‘to strive for the full protection and promotion in all our countries of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights for all’. The statement was made as part of a Declaration aimed at ensuring that ‘globalisation becomes a positive force for all the world's people’. Arguably, issues of human dignity could well have been addressed globally in a different language than that of the language of human rights, and there may be some disadvantages to the choice made – a tendency, perhaps, to overemphasise self-interest and private gain and to underestimate the importance to human dignity of an individual's relationships with others – but clearly significant progress has been made in mobilising the international community on the issue of human dignity through the instrument of human rights.
Article
The field of post-conflict justice is characterized in no small part by international interventions into post-conflict settings. International interveners invest substantial resources toward the goals of post-conflict justice, including creating legal accountability for atrocities and rebuilding local and national justice systems that respect human rights and rule of law. The aims of post-conflict justice and the mechanisms by which the international community can contribute to post-conflict legal institutions and processes have been and continue to be studied intensively. But while the institutions, processes, and goals of post-conflict justice have been carefully scrutinized, another aspect of international interventions into post-conflict justice has been evaluated less thoroughly: the people who carry out the interventions. Who are the international lawyers, human rights officers, and others who do this crucial work on behalf of interveners, and what is their role in shaping post-conflict accountability and legal reform? Looking behind processes and institutions to the people involved is particularly critical in the post-conflict justice context, because there exists a tight-knit network of repeat players (the "post-conflict justice junkies") who move quickly and repeatedly from one international criminal tribunal or other post-conflict justice institution to the next ("tribunal-hopping"). In this symposium article, I explore the implications of the existence of this network and its practice of tribunal-hopping for the effectiveness of international involvement in post-conflict justice. This article sets out my initial observations and analysis in preparation for an empirical study.
rights through the United Nations: The Domestic Influence of the Special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Fleur Adcock
Adcock, Fleur. 2014. "rights through the United Nations: The Domestic Influence of the Special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. " Paper presented at the American Anthropological Association Annual meeting. washington, DC.