Welcome – Audio Transcript

Welcome to the rightsfuture.com.

I am Conor Gearty, a professor of human rights law at the London School of Economics in London (or LSE as it is more commonly known), and this is an experimental web-based project which will be running between now – October 2010 – and LSE’s festival of ideas in February 2011. The subject is rights, more particularly human rights: What are they? Where do they come from? Do they truly exist? Do they have a future?

In a moment, you will see, hear or read my rights manifesto.  I have a particular take on rights and in this manifesto I set out my beliefs and hopes for human rights, for the right rights’ future.  Then, from this Monday I will be posting an essay on the web at the start of each week for twenty weeks – each of these will develop my perspective further and deepen the argument that I am about to set out.

But the project is not just the usual thing of a writer writing and everybody listening!  I want responses to my arguments: extra points, further illustrations, but also disagreements, corrections, and contrary points of view.  Every Friday I will be publishing a response to the reaction that that week’s Monday essay has provoked.  So the book we will be launching in February will be a composite of all of these inputs, a true publishing partnership.

The site is open to all, whatever your age, wherever you are from or whatever you do for a living. Please get stuck in – read and watch and contribute as well if you feel able.

But above all enjoy.

1 Response to Welcome – Audio Transcript

  1. Jose-Manuel Barreto says:

    I would like to make some comments on the project itself -the idea of publishing essays on human rights on the internet and of encouraging a dialogue with contributions from the public. Perhaps this is not only a very good way of approaching the task of writing a book on human rights, and of taking advantage of the interactive capabilities of the web. It has also philosophical connotations. Thinking of human rights in a dialogical way takes us back to Plato’s dialogues, a genre that has been almost completely forgotten in modern times. More importantly, it breaks with the way in which human rights have been thought in modernity since the times of Hobbes and Locke, to contemporary thinkers like Habermas. This is the main thrust of the project and where its potentiality of contributing to the theory of rights resides. More auspicious becomes the project when taking into account the project is based at LSE, a university with a worldwide audience, and whose motto is ‘join the global debate’.

    Yet, some doubts emerge as to the openness and the range of the dialogue that is being constructed here. The work made by the thinkers forming the canon of the modern philosophy of human rights was the product of their solitary reflection but also –seeing this from the perspective of the cultural history of the ideas- of controversy and dialogue with their predecessors and contemporaries. However, and this is key of this argument, the conventional or mainstream theory of human rights can be described as the product of a monologue of the Western tradition: a dialogue between European thinkers -enhanced during the last decades to include US philosophers like Rawls and Rorty. What about those thinking human rights from the ‘exteriority’ of Europe? Is ‘The Rights’ Future’ project to follow the same fate?

    A particular setting in which is possible to find some clues about the general orientation and scope of this project is the panel with which it was launched. Costas Douzinas, Francesca Klug and David Lammy formed an outstanding panel of scholars and politicians who have made a very important contribution to the theory and practice of human rights. Theirs was also a group characterised by difference: from modern to postmodern approaches; from theoretical to more legal and practical understandings of rights; from white European backgrounds to a young member of a first generation of Afro-Caribbean immigrants to Britain. However, at the same time, the panel showed the limits of the initial structure of this project: no scholars or activists from outside Britain or Europe were invited.

    Is it adequate or relevant to invite somebody from outside Europe when human rights are debated? This is not only a question of logistics regarding the size of the panel or the decision-making process about who should be invited to speak. It is the subject to be discussed that reclaims this sort of considerations. The project refers to human rights as a ‘universal’ idea and announces it will deal with their present state ‘in the world’. The project is also described as an engagement with the history, the present and the possible futures of human rights. Thus, the project aims at reaching some insights about human rights that are not only valid in the context of Britain but that also have ‘universal’ appeal or basis. In addition, if the state of human rights in the world is to be explored thoroughly, opinions from those thinking and working on human rights around the world are required. Surely, the ‘Global South’ or the ‘Third World’ will be part of the futures of human rights. And the vision of Non-Western scholars and activists is also necessary if we are not going to write a localised history of human rights -one that not only speaks of events that happened within the borders of Europe.

    The collaborative work that will be the final product of this exciting challenge will be presented at next year’s LSE Literary Festival, whose general theme of is that of ‘Crossing borders’. Will ‘The Rights’ Future’ be able to cross the borders of Britain and Europe, and to engage in a dialogue with those thinking human rights from the perspective of the Third World?

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