On 25 April Dr Joseph Slaughter (Columbia University) will give a lecture during the Comparative Literature Seminar at Utrecht University titled 'Hijacking Human Rights: Neoliberalism and the End of the Third World'. This seminar is organised in collaboration with the Utrecht University research focus area Cultures, Citizenship and Human Rights.
hijacking human rights
Over the past decade, a new historiography of human rights has identified the 1970s as the crucial period when human rights discourse gained traction globally. Most of the historians working in this mode adopt a North Atlantic perspective on the history and concept of human rights; they relegate stories and struggles outside the U.S. and Europe to minor, inconsequential, or irrelevant uses of the languages of human rights. The story of the West’s reduction of human rights to a limited set of individual civil and political protections against state abuses in the 70s cannot be told without recognizing the dramatic foreclosure of other more radical visions of human rights that still obtained in the Third and Fourth Worlds: national self-determination, economic redistribution, and social and cultural security. If the 1970s was the decade of human rights, it was also the decade of hijackings, many of which were undertaken in the name of those broader struggles. As Slaughter argues in this lecture, however, none of those airline hijackings was quite as effective as the neo-liberal hijacking of human rights.