Synopses & Reviews
Human rights are paradoxical. Advocates across the world invoke the idea that such rights belong to all people, no matter who or where they are. But since humans can only realize their rights in particular places, human rights are both always and never universal.
The Human Rights Paradox is the first book to fully embrace this contradiction and reframe human rights as history, contemporary social advocacy, and future prospect. In case studies that span Africa, Latin America, South and Southeast Asia, and the United States, contributors carefully illuminate how social actors create the imperative of human rights through relationships whose entanglements of the global and the local are so profound that one cannot exist apart from the other. These chapters provocatively analyze emerging twenty-first-century horizons of human rightson one hand, the simultaneous promise and peril of global rights activism through social media, and on the other, the force of intergenerational rights linked to environmental concerns that are both local and global. Taken together, they demonstrate how local struggles and realities transform classic human rights concepts, including victim,” truth,” and justice.”
Edited by Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus, The Human Rights Paradox enables us to consider the consequencesfor history, social analysis, politics, and advocacyof understanding that human rights belong both to humanity” as abstraction as well as to specific people rooted in particular locales.
andquot;A classic. . . . No American should be able to read [this book] without weeping at his country's arrogance.andquot;andmdash;Anthony Lewis, New York Times
andquot;[In Laos,] where a right-wing government installed by the CIA faced a rebellion, one of the most beautiful areas in the world, the Plain of Jars, was being destroyed by bombing. This was not reported by the government or the press, but an American who lived in Laos, Fred Branfman, who told the story in his book Voices from the Plain of Jars.andquot;andmdash;Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States
andquot;Today, the significance of this book's message has, if anything, increased. As Fred Branfman predicted with uncommon prescience, the massive U.S. bombing of Laos during the Vietnam War marked the advent of a new kind of warfareandmdash;automated, aerial, and secretandmdash;that is just now emerging as the dominant means of projecting U.S. power worldwide.andquot;andmdash;Alfred W. McCoy, author of Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation
andquot;In this small, shattering book we hearandmdash;as we are so rarely able to doandmdash;the voices of Asian peasants describing what we can barely begin to imagine.andquot;andmdash;Gloria Emerson, New York Review of Books
A deeply penetrating critique of dominant trends in the human rights literature. This volume poses a persuasive challenge to those scholars who overlook the uneven and nonlinear development of human rights.”Victor Peskin, author of International Justice in Rwanda and the Balkans
The contributors illustrate well the complexity of analyzing specific situations and defining strategies for action, as well as the relevance of context, history, and politics.”Susana Kaiser, University of San Francisco
During the Vietnam War the United States government waged a massive, secret air war in neighboring Laos. Two million tons of bombs were dropped on one million people. Fred Branfman, an educational advisor living in Laos at the time, interviewed over 1,000 Laotian survivors. Shocked by what he heard and saw, he urged them to record their experiences in essays, poems, and pictures. Voices from the Plain of Jars
was the result of that effort.
and#160;and#160; and#160;When first published in 1972, this book was instrumental in exposing the bombing. In this expanded edition, Branfman follows the story forward in time, describing the hardships that Laotians faced after the war when they returned to find their farm fields littered with cluster munitionsandmdash;explosives that continue to maim and kill today.
By identifying and embracing the paradox that human rights are at once a transcendent value belonging to all and a reality forged by particular people rooted in specific places, The Human Rights Paradox
advances a new way to understand the history, contemporary politics, advocacy, and future prospects of human rights.
About the Author
Steve J. Stern is the Alberto Flores Galindo and Hilldale Professor of History at the University of WisconsinMadison. He received the Bolton-Johnson Prize from the Conference in Latin American History in 2007 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012. Scott Straus is a professor of political science and international studies at the University of WisconsinMadison. He is the author of The Order of Genocide
and a coeditor of Remaking Rwanda
Table of Contents
Embracing Paradox: Human Rights in the Global Age
Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus
Part I. Who Makes Human Rights?
1 Human Rights History from the Ground Up: The Case of East Timor
2 Rights on Display: Museums and Human Rights Claims
3 Civilian Agency in Times of Crisis: Lessons from Burundi
Meghan Foster Lynch
Part II. Interrogating Classic Concepts
4 Consulting Survivors: Evidence from Cambodia, Northern Uganda, and Other Countries Affected by Mass Violence
Patrick Vinck and Phuong N. Pham
5 "Memoria, Verdad y Justicia": The Terrain of Post-Dictatorship Social Reconstruction and the Struggle for Human Rights in Argentina
6 The Paradoxes of Accountability: Transitional Justice in Peru
Part III. New Horizons
7 The Aporias of New Technologies for Human Rights Activism
8 The Human Right to Water in Rural India: Promises and Challenges
9 A Very Promising Species: From Hobbes to the Human Right to Water
Richard P. Hiskes