Winner of the 2018 University of Capetown Meritorious Book Prize, sponsored by University of Capetown.
The international legal framework of human rights presents itself as universal. But rights do not exist as a mere framework; they are enacted, practiced, and debated in local contexts. Rights After Wrongs ethnographically explores the chasm between the ideals and the practice of human rights. Specifically, it shows where the sweeping colonial logics of Western law meets the lived experiences, accumulated histories, and humanitarian debts present in post-colonial Zimbabwe.
Through a comprehensive survey of human rights scholarship, Shannon Morreira explores the ways in which the global framework of human rights is locally interpreted, constituted, and contested in Harare, Zimbabwe, and Musina and Cape Town, South Africa. Presenting the stories of those who lived through the violent struggles of the past decades, Morreira shows how supposedly universal ideals become localized in the context of post-colonial Southern Africa. Rights After Wrongs uncovers the disconnect between the ways human rights appear on paper and the ways in which it is possible for people to use and understand them in everyday life.
About the author
Shannon Morreira is a social anthropologist and Lecturer in the Humanities Education Development Unit at the University of Cape Town.
"Rights After Wrongs explores how human rights discourses and the practices they enjoin travel—or fail to—as migrants move between sovereign states. Exploring disjunctures between ideals and practices, Morreira shows migrants' strategic use of discourses of rights and ubuntu. Unbound by national borders, this book is exceptional in its range and reach—a critical resource for scholars of rights and justice."
—Fiona Ross, University of Cape Town
"The global movement of refugees and migrants is the human rights issue of the twenty-first century. Shannon Morreira elegantly documents the struggles of Zimbabwean refugees and exiles in South Africa, drawing out the wider implications for concepts of personhood, rights, and migration. Challenging the conventional distinction between economic migrants and political refugees, Morreira's analysis of the contradictions in the law has a direct bearing on policy discussions of immigration and asylum in South Africa and beyond."
—Richard A. Wilson, University of Connecticut
"Shannon Morreira's Rights After Wrongs: Local Knowledge and Human Rights in Zimbabwe is a lucid examination of how urban Zimbabweans have strategically engaged with human rights under the regime of Robert Mugabe, widely recognized as one of Africa's longest-standing dictators.Ultimately, this book is a valuable reminder that as people around the world face political repression and authoritarianism, violence, economic inequality, and refugee precariousness, "human rights" are unlikely to provide a panacea."
—Kristin C. Doughty, American Anthropologist