Do so-called universal human rights apply to indigenous, formerly enslaved and colonized peoples?
This trenchant book brings human rights into conversation with the histories and afterlives of Western colonialism and slavery. Colin Samson examines the paradox that the nations that credit themselves with formulating universal human rights were colonial powers, settler colonists and sponsors of enslavement. Samson points out that many liberal theorists supported colonialism and slavery, and how this illiberalism plays out today in selective, often racist processes of recognition and enforcement of human rights.
To reveal the continuities between colonial histories and contemporary events, Samson connects British, French and American colonial theories and practice to the notion of non-universal human rights. Vivid illustrations and case studies of racial exceptions to human rights are drawn from the afterlives of the enslaved and colonized, as well as recent events such as American police killings of black people, the treatment of Algerian harkis in France, the Windrush scandal in Britain and the militarized suppression of the Standing Rock Water Protectors movement. Advocating for reparative justice and indigenizing law, Samson argues that such events are not a failure of liberalism so much as an inbuilt racial dynamic of it.
Country of Publication:
17 July 2020
Professional and scholarly
Preface Chapter 1: Non-Universal Human Rights and Rightlessness Chapter 2: The Uneasy Present of Colonialism Chapter 3: Slavery and Its Afterlives Chapter 4: The Less Than Human Chapter 5: The Impossibility of Indigenous Human Rights Chapter 6: Decolonizing Human Rights Bibliography Index
Colin Samson is Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex
Reviews for The Colonialism of Human Rights: Ongoing Hypocrisies of Western Liberalism
Colin Samson has written a poignant indictment of the hypocrisy of Western elites who extol the virtues of human rights while engaging in colonialism, war, slavery and capitalist exploitation. He makes a powerful argument for decolonizing human rights by indigenizing the law and addressing the racial exclusions at the heart of human rights discourse. Richard Wilson, University of Connecticut A coruscating analysis of the dark side of liberalism, demonstrating that the universality of human rights has always been limited by assumptions of cultural and racial inequality at their core. A powerful and revealing intervention in politics, history and activism. Robert Gildea, University of Oxford