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Human Rights and Empire

In partnership with Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities

  • Speakers: Professor Costas Douzinas, Professor Paul Gilroy
  • Chair: Professor Anne Phillips
  • Wednesday 5 March 2008 


This event engaged two distinctive thinkers with the crucial issue of the relationship of human rights to empire. What is the relationship between the liberal discourse of human rights, race and empire? Is there a relationship between human rights and the recent (imperial?) wars carried out in their name? Who counts as 'human' within the moral grammar of human rights? Can human rights provide the robust normative and institutional tools of resistance to oppression and domination? Or do they merely provide the ideological underpinnings of the political, economic and military interests of new modes of empire?

Costas Douzinas  Professor of Law and Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities. Costas was a member of the team that established the Birkbeck Law School in 1992. He has been Head of the School and Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Birkbeck. His recent books include: Human Rights and Empire (2007); Adieu Derrida (2007); Nomos and Aesthetics (2006); Critical Jurisprudence (2005) and The End of Human Rights (2000). Costas is the managing editor of Law and Critique: The International Journal of Critical Legal Thought and of the Birkbeck Law Press. His work has been translated in 8 languages.

Paul Gilroy is the first holder of the Anthony Giddens Professorship in Social Theory at LSE. His intellectual background is multi-disciplinary and he has extensive interests in literature, art, music and cultural history as well as in social science. He is best known for his work on racism, nationalism and ethnicity and his original approach to the history of the African diaspora into the western hemisphere. Paul's current research projects include a comparative and historical consideration of colonial government. He has lectured in universities all over the world and his work has been translated into French, Italian, Portuguese, Danish, Swedish, Japanese, Arabic, Spanish and German.

Anne Phillips FBA
is Professor of Political and Gender Theory, LSE. She is a leading figure in feminist political theory, and writes on issues of democracy and representation, equality, multiculturalism, and difference. Much of her work can be read as challenging the narrowness of contemporary liberal theory.