How Time Matters in the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review: Humans, Objects, and Time Creation

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The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Nations Human Rights Council is an innovative monitoring mechanism in the international human rights law system. As the UPR matures, scholars have increasingly sought to stand back and understand it as a process. In this article, I take work in this vein further by considering more closely the actors involved in the UPR – humans and objects – and highlighting the time creating effects that emerge from the relationships between them. Across the various stages of the UPR, a range of temporalities – from cyclicality and linearity to retrogression and suspension of time – are produced and sustained by people, reports, data, lists, microphones, screens, computers, action plans, and desks, just to name a few. I argue from this that time is materially made in the review process, often in micro and taken for granted ways. In its operation, the UPR appears as a collection of temporal assemblages. Or, in language drawn from Actor Network Theory (ANT), an assortment of fluid and interweaving sets of actants networked together who generate ideas of time across its practice. Apprehending time creation in this material, ANT-inflected way is highly significant for scholars and practitioners interested in the UPR. It holds potential to influence how this process can be understood, approached, and located within international human rights law as itself a larger, time creating actor-network.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607 - 627
Number of pages21
JournalLeiden journal of International Law
Issue number3
Early online date13 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


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