Towards a subaltern theory of human rights

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his article aims to provide the justification for a subaltern theory of human rights. It explains the desirability of interpretative strategies that reveal the role, knowledge, contributions and sources that depict subaltern human rights perspectives. In particular, it considers the work of Boaventura de Sousa Santos, whose various writings directly or indirectly address the central issues relating to human rights from these perspectives. It subsequently explores the relationship between Santos and other protagonists, such as Upendra Baxi. These perspectives are then correlated with the view that the optimism for subaltern human rights may seem an insurmountable challenge given that this is hinged on the possibilities of a relationship with law. The justification or indeed legitimacy of subaltern views of human rights rests squarely on the degree to which such claims can be concretized into law. For instance, the state-centric nature of international human rights law is closed to initiatives that fall beyond its scope. As a consequence, the final preoccupation in this article is to propose the deconstruction of human rights into a plural discourse of its law and jurisprudence. This, to me, rests on the possibility of extrapolating a view of human rights from the notion of legal pluralism. The article is structured into the following parts. The first fleshes out an understanding of the subaltern concept. The second part locates the subaltern within the context of Santos' work on globalization; here, an attempt is made to correlate the relationship between globalization and human rights, particularly from the perspectives of the subaltern. The third part considers the loose connection of previous sections with the prospective theory of subaltern human rights and, ultimately, how legal pluralism supports this endeavor.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Jurist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2009


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