Human Rights and the Borders of Suffering: The Promotion of Human Rights in International Politics

By M. Anne Brown | Go to book overview

7
Conclusion

What is the use of having a right of free speech if no one is listening. (Aboriginal
artist Sally Morgan, Radio National, 10 November 1995)

THE TERRAIN OF human rights is broad and there are many ways of crossing it. Moreover, it is a terrain that is incoherent and contradictory, and full of both vehemence and uncertainty. This reflection on rights has sought to take a particular path across that broad and rocky terrain, particularly in regard to the promotion of human rights practices and approaches in international life – a life that does not start at the borders but one which in various ways includes us all. It argues for a shift in approach – a greater preparedness to reflect on some of the categories by which we construct our sense of human rights and some acknowledgment of the limits of our understanding, or even of our ignorance, of the complex life to which these categories, particularly that of the human, refer. The purpose of this questioning is not to reject outright classical perspectives and mechanisms or to elaborate a new vision of human rights. It is more simply to enable a better human rights practice – that is, to enable a rights practice which is more observant of and responsive to the spectrum of injury that we collectively inflict and endure, more open to engagement over the long term with the complexities of the actual social practices, institutions and circumstances in which many forms of abuse are embedded, and which is at the least oriented no less towards the reconstitution of social and political relationships and structures shaped by violence and humiliation than it is towards the condemnation of the perpetrators. It is to enable a practice that is less preoccupied with promoting a gilded vision of its own self-image as the truth and, while not abandoning tools and experience, more willing to listen to and work with others. It is these concerns that have been explored in the case studies.

The language of human rights has emerged as part of the ambiguous possibilities and shifting forms of the modern state – the state not solely imagined

-198-

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Human Rights and the Borders of Suffering: The Promotion of Human Rights in International Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • I - The Question of Human Rights 1
  • 1 - Opening Up Conceptions of Rights 3
  • 2 - The Construction of Human Rights- Dominant Approaches 19
  • 3 - The Pursuit of Grounds 56
  • II - Case Studies 90
  • 4 - China – The Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989 93
  • 5 - East Timor 128
  • 6 - The Status of Indigenous Australians 162
  • 7 - Conclusion 198
  • References 212
  • Index 221
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