The quest for constructive criticism

Critical approaches to human rights

Authored by: Alison Brysk

Routledge Handbook on Human Rights and the Middle East and North Africa

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138807679
eBook ISBN: 9781315750972
Adobe ISBN: 9781317613763


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It is an ironic sign of the success of a new discourse when it begins to generate critiques. Constructive criticism can improve the responsiveness of any claims for social justice. However, in the twenty-first century, we have reached a contradictory moment of unexpected traction and heartbreaking inadequacy in human rights implementation. Amid this, we see the growing relevance of human rights scholarship. These include academic critiques that range from historically informed engagements to ideological predispositions and deconstructive rhetoric. This chapter will seek to evaluate the balance between grounded and rhetorical critiques of human rights. It hopes, in so doing, to recover our understanding of how scholarship can contribute to the value of human rights as a constructed political practice, arguing that scholarship must be engaged with histories and current realities if it is to make sense of contradictory human rights realities and safeguard the emancipatory potential of human rights discourse.

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