Looping for Human Rights: An Ethnographic Theory of Expansion
How does a societal concern turn into an uncontested human rights issue? Using a pioneering approach, this book will engage with this question by developing an ethnographic theory of expansion. In everyday parlance, human rights are cast as tools for addressing social injustices. Yet not all injustices acquire prominence as recognized human rights issues in international monitoring, state policies, legislation, and NGO lobbying: while LGBTI+ rights have become mainstream, the rights of the elderly, for example, have remained marginalized. Based on prolonged, multi-sited research of UN human rights monitoring practices, state reporting, NGO activism and previously unstudied primary data at UN archives, the monograph will theorize the ‘looping’ practices through which human rights insiders maneuver within the opaque transparency of human rights bureaucracies to expand the scope of what becomes accepted under the human rights umbrella. Simultaneously, the book explores the kinds of material and knowledge capital influence requires. Building upon recent anthropological work on bureaucracy, expertise, and documents, it will make a significant contribution to human rights studies and the study of global collaboration, international organizations, and soft law. Finally, it reflects upon global power dynamics: has the conceptual expansion of human rights resulted in an unambiguous realization of their egalitarian potential or instead become a mechanism for reincarnating privilege?