Thursday, 12 March 2015

"Human Rights" - is this a defensible concept?

When we talk about the scholarship of teaching and learning for a socially just pedagogy, we need to be clear about what we mean by 'social justice' in the first place. This point was emphasized by Hennie Lotter at Vanessa Merckel's great doctoral seminar this Monday (9 March). And he was absolutely right.

One of the more tired staples in the diet of social justice talk is that of 'human rights'.  When I worked at the national Department of Education in the Race and Values Directorate, the concept of human rights was the order of the day, and we were trying to find ways of integrating it in the school curriculum. However the concept and its ethnocentric origins bothered me, even then. The concept needs reinvention - this is the argument made by Michalinos Zembylas and Vivienne Bozalek in their article:

 A critical engagement with the social and political consequences of human rights: the contribution of the affective turn and post humanism
that appeared in Acta Academica, 2014: 46 (4) 29 - 47. They present a critique of the concept, and a way of reinvigorating it by considering it within the paradigms of the affective turn and critical post humanism. It is a scholarly and well argued article - even if their alternatives might not be to everyone's linking. It would be interesting to read what others think of it. The full text is in the project dropbox folder under 'general readings', but the abstract is reproduced, below. 
- if you enjoy this article, you will enjoy listening to Michalinos talk at our mini-conference on 1 December 2015. Here are Michalinos and Vivienne at the Heltasa Conference in Cape Town in 2012, along with Ronelle Carollissen, Francois Cilliers and Crain Soudien:

Responding to human rights critiques, this article draws on some of the literature in the affective turn and posthumanism to critique the liberal framework as well as the moral superiority of humanism on which the human rights regime has been built. Both the affective turn and posthumanism – although not monolithic – are based on two important premises that favour an agonistic account of rights: the first is that human beings are regarded in social and relational rather than in atomistic terms or as individuals without connections. Secondly, a reading of human rights through perspectives of the affective turn and posthumanism highlights a critical posthumanist engagement with human rights, conducted in the name of an unfinished and ambiguous humanity connected to other sentient beings and the environment, rather than a singular or absolute political identity of humanity. This reading recognises the social, economic and political consequences of human rights and thus their potential to upset the dominant social, economic and political order, rather than accepting human rights as universal norms of social life while ignoring the ideological frame in which they are exercised.

No comments:

Post a Comment