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Cover of Reinventing Human Rights by Mark Goodale
Reinventing Human Rights
Mark Goodale


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March 2022
232 pages.
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Hardcover ISBN: 9781503613300
Paperback ISBN: 9781503631007
Ebook ISBN: 9781503631014

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A radical vision for the future of human rights as a fundamentally reconfigured framework for global justice.

Reinventing Human Rights offers a bold argument: that only a radically reformulated approach to human rights will prove adequate to confront and overcome the most consequential global problems. Charting a new path—away from either common critiques of the various incapacities of the international human rights system or advocacy for the status quo—Mark Goodale offers a new vision for human rights as a basis for collective action and moral renewal.

Goodale's proposition to reinvent human rights begins with a deep unpacking of human rights institutionalism and political theory in order to give priority to the "practice of human rights." Rather than a priori claims to universality, he calls for a working theory of human rights defined by "translocality," a conceptual and ethical grounding that invites people to form alliances beyond established boundaries of community, nation, race, or religious identity.

This book will serve as both a concrete blueprint and source of inspiration for those who want to preserve human rights as a key framework for confronting our manifold contemporary challenges, yet who agree—for many different reasons—that to do so requires radical reappraisal, imaginative reconceptualization, and a willingness to reinvent human rights as a cross-cultural foundation for both empowerment and social action.

About the author

Mark Goodale is Professor of Cultural and Social Anthropology at the University of Lausanne. He is the author of A Revolution in Fragments (2019), Anthropology and Law (2017), and Surrendering to Utopia (Stanford, 2009), among other works.

"Reinventing Human Rights is a major original statement that transcends old debates and opens tremendous new possibilities. Mark Goodale's ambitious, intrepid move is to neither embrace nor vilify human rights but to demand a new vision of them, for a translocal and transformative politics in a diverse and unequal world."

—Samuel Moyn, Yale University, author of Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World

"Reinventing Human Rights captures the emergent conditions we must address—whether we want to or not. Mark Goodale opens us up to settings often overlooked, but that increasingly signal their presence."

—Saskia Sassen, Columbia University, author of Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy

"Goodale... articulates a new vision for conceptualizing human rights, aiming to inspire fresh thinking and approaches to contemporary problems. His approach challenges claims of universality, which have long been a theoretical and practical stumbling block for human rights scholars and practitioners, and emphasizes what he calls translocality to create broader, though still nuanced, alliances among people across tribes, cultures, and nations. ... Recommended."

—A. G. Reiter, CHOICE

"Reinventing Human Rights... presents an eloquently argued 'only way forward'... in redefining the framework for seeking justice globally. The tenor is normative, earnestly looking for betterment in the world, even as it draws on critical scholarship, showcasing several titles from the Stanford Studies in Human Rights edited by the author."

—Harri Englund, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute