Are Rights Out of Time? International Human Rights Law, Temporality, and Radical Social Change

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Human rights were a defining discourse of the twentieth century. The opening decades of the twenty-first, however, have witnessed increasing claims that the time of this discourse as an emancipatory tool is up. Focusing on international human rights law, I offer a response to these claims. Drawing from Elizabeth Grosz, Drucilla Cornell and Judith Butler, I propose that a productive future for this area of law in facilitating radical social change can be envisaged by considering more closely the relationship between human rights and temporality and by thinking through a conception of rights which is untimely. This involves abandoning commitment to linearity, progression and predictability in understanding international human rights law and its development and viewing such as based on a conception of the future that is unknown and uncontrollable, that does not progressively follow from the present, and that is open to embrace of the new.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalSocial and Legal Studies
Issue number6
Early online date05 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


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