On Friday 22 January 2016, John Erni gave his inaugural lecture titled “Who Needs Human Rights? A critical Legal Humanities Perspective”.
At its seventieth year of global operation, the modern human rights system has been challenged rigorously by critics and intellectuals, calling it outdated, weak in impact, even corrupted. Yet at this very crossroads, where problems of acute poverty, extreme environmental crises, neoliberal cultural and economic exploitation, and deep ethnic and religious conflicts, to name just a few, continue to escalate in national and international contexts, we need human rights protection more than ever.
In this lecture, I shall share my thoughts on the ways in which we may reinvigorate the “human rights imaginary” as a global intellectual project, using a critical legal humanities approach. By this approach, I am specifically interested in forging an articulation of social movement-inspired cultural studies with critical legal theory. I hope to develop a distinctive critical model for analyzing the intersections of human rights and cultural politics, one that is capable of addressing two important spheres of “human rights action,” namely the transnational (but increasingly post-nationalist) judicial apparatus dealing with rights and the equally transnational sphere of networked social movements of varying scales.