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date: 18 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Debates about human rights in many ways represent one of the original sites of law and the humanities. This chapter canvasses the different ways that humanistically minded thinkers have understood rights, both today and over history. On the one hand, human rights have been the target of sustained critique, as scholars have probed their many errors and limits. But on the other, different humanists have instead affirmed rights, seeing them as enabled by the same openings and indeterminacies that are broadly constitutive of democracy. Attention to the limits of rights has also brokered that embrace. By exploring these competing responses to human rights, this chapter construes those disputes as a referendum on larger ideas about law and legality that inform law and the humanities. Analyzing human rights has therefore often seemed to fulfill an almost autobiographical function for thinkers across a number of humanities disciplines, meaning that the status of human rights can tell us a lot about received accounts of the value of the humanities.

Keywords: human rights, interdisciplinarity, critique, limits, humanitarianism, UDHR, humanities, critical legal studies

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