AP/ANTH 4410 3.00
THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Anthropology, a discipline grounded in the principles of cultural relativism, has been uncomfortable with the universalizing discourse of human rights since it was first codified in the United Nation's 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
Initially, anthropologists rejected the Declaration's claims outright, asserting the superiority of their own pluralist understandings of what constitutes the human over the Western ones that they argued the Declaration was falsely claiming as universals. Since the end of the Cold War, however, human rights claims have become an increasingly important tool for marginalized and subaltern communities—anthropologists' traditional subjects—to assert their political claims. Recognizing this, anthropologists have scrambled to engage the notion of human rights in a less confrontational mode while retaining their commitment to relativism.
This course will survey this history in order to set up the conceptual problems anthropologists face when discussing human rights. It will then proceed to examine some of the strategies anthropologists have used to resolve these problems, including expanding the subject of rights to include collectivities as well as individuals, using rights as a tool of advocacy, grounding rights in anthropological concepts of culture, and treating human rights itself as a culture.