In December 2015, John Erni delivered a keynote speech at the third ACS (Association for Cultural Studies) Institute 2015 held at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
In the persistent (re)turn to questions of representational, identity-based, and political economic justice today, how will Cultural Studies make space for human rights as a global legal and humanitarian practice? Of late, the new and unremitting atrocities linked to state, inter-state, and private violence have precipitated new social movements that act in concert with international human rights law. To these movements, Cultural Studies has had little dialogic or institutional connections. In this lecture, I shall consider the conditions of possibility for overcoming the apparent non-correspondence between critical cultural humanism and rights, and between culture and law. The locution “with or without” in the title is employed to signal a dialectical and contingent, rather than cynical, relation between Cultural Studies and rights discourse and politics.