Institute for Social Justice

Rethinking Rights and Justice

How has the pre-eminence of human rights within debates about justice in both political theory and practice affected our ability to think and talk about questions of suffering, violation and inequality, and about emancipation, dignity and redress?

Is the rights framework sufficient?

What falls outside this framework, perhaps exceeds, resists or rejects it?

In this research area, ISJ researchers are exploring conceptions of rights and justice beyond the narrow institutionalized frames of (liberal) human rights and legal processes. As part of a larger project that rethinks the question of the human and the human/non-human relation, Nikolas Kompridis is examining the conceptions of the human underlying human rights discourse – their limitations and blindnesses, and, from another angle, the ways in which “anti-humanism” inflects critiques of human rights. Magdalena Zolkos, in her work on trauma, memory and affect provokes us to consider justice beyond its dominant liberal articulations, and to think about the constitutive limits of law in doing justice for the past. Meanwhile Kiran Grewal seeks to expand the debate about the emancipatory potential of human rights beyond abstract or institutional accounts to engage with subaltern struggles, voices and practices. A leading scholar in this field, Costas Douzinas provides critical legal perspectives that highlight both the oppressive nature of rights discourses and potential sites for renewal.  Joseph Carens develops a normative framework for evaluating the rights and responsibilities of the nation state in the era of mass migration, while Paul Apostolidis focuses on the struggles for justice of migrant labourers and the challenges of speaking about justice in the context of neoliberal economic and labour organization. Jennifer Nedelsky analyzes the relationship between discourses of rights and practices of relational autonomy.