Declaration as Disavowal: The Politics of Race and Empire in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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Mackinnon, Emma Stone 

jats:p This article argues that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), by claiming certain inheritances from eighteenth-century American and French rights declarations, simultaneously disavowed others, reshaping the genre of the rights declaration in ways amenable to forms of imperial and racial domination. I begin by considering the rights declaration as genre, arguing that later participants can both inherit and disavow aspects of what came before. Then, drawing on original archival research, I consider the drafting of the UDHR, using as an entry point the reception of the NAACP’s Appeal to the World petition, edited by W.E.B. DuBois. I reconstruct conversations within the drafting committee about the right to petition, self-determination, and the right to rebellion, and the separation of the Declaration from the rights covenants, to illustrate the allegiances between US racial politics and French imperial politics, and their legacies for our contemporary conceptions of human rights. </jats:p>

declaration, genre, disavowal, human rights, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
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Political Theory
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SAGE Publications