Conor Gearty, professor of human rights law at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) will launch a unique new writing project, The Rights' Future, at a public debate on Wednesday 6 October at LSE. Unlike traditional launches, the book this event announces is not yet written. Instead its production will be an interactive experience, unfolding weekly as a series of online essays which will be shaped not only by the author's views but by those of his audience. The completed book will be presented at LSE's third Literary Festival in February 2011.
At the start of each week, Conor Gearty will publish a chapter of the book online in the form of a 2,000 word essay. Students and the general public will then have the opportunity to comment and respond to the piece, with Professor Gearty summarizing the responses, and how they have impacted on his thinking, in a reworked essay by the end of the week. The process will begin again the following Monday with the next instalment of the book.
In a series of 20 essays written in this way over the coming three months Professor Gearty will address the history and politics of human rights, their present state in the world and map out some of the possible futures that await this morally important but highly contested phrase.Titles of the topics to be discussed include: 'If human rights are not despised by the powerful they are not human rights'; 'Double standards are valuable as long as they don't last too long'; 'A world court of human rights is vital – but only if it seems powerless' and 'Do trees have rights?'. Each of these essays will be supplemented by links to longer essays and other related material.
Professor Gearty said: 'Today's world has precious few ethical resources to hand. As the only potentially radical and genuinely universal idea available to us, human rights is too valuable to leave to the liberals, the market-slaves or the neo-conservatives, too important to be left to the lawyers and too subversive to be handed over to politicians alone. It needs the intellectuals, the workers and the streets if its model of a new kind of society has any chance of being built.
'But as is obvious, The Rights' Future is not purely an academic exercise - there will be an opportunity for alternative essays, votes on particular propositions and the development of rival points of view. I look forward to engaging in discussion not only with my own students but with other students, school-goers, indeed the public as a whole over the future of human rights and to seeing how this debate will affect my overall argument about the future of human rights. The web has given us this great capacity for universal discussion, and we should use it.'
As well as encouraging interactivity via the website, Professor Gearty also hopes to visit local schools and organisations over the three months for face-to-face debates about human rights. These discussions will be filmed and, in turn, opened up for wider discussion by being posted online.
The reworked essays and other links will form the basis of a special website and book, which will be presented by Professor Gearty at the LSE Space For Thought Literary Festival in February 2011.
Coor Gearty is a professor of human rights law and was founding director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at LSE. He is a fellow of the British Academy and author of many books, including Civil Liberties, Principles of Human Rights Adjundication and Can Human Rights Survive?, the last of which was based on the prestigious Hamlyn lectures that he gave at LSE, Durham and Belfast in 2005.
Joining Conor Gearty at the launch event will be Professor Costas Douzinas, law professor and director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London, Professor Francesca Klug, professorial research fellow at LSE, and David Lammy, former MP and a member of the Privy Council from 2008. For more on the event, see The Rights' Future debate.
To view the book's progress – or participate yourself, see www.therightsfuture.com *
People can also sign up to The Rights' Future's twitter feed@therightsfuture to stay abreast of what is being posted and discussed.
* The website will go live Wednesday 6 October at the time of the announcement (6.30pm)
To attend the event, contact Allie Dunlap, firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the publication or to interview Conor Gearty, contact Jess Winterstein, LSE Press Office, 020 7107 5025.
The Rights' Future on Wednesday 6 October is at 6.30-8pm in the Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building. Speakers: Professor Costas Douzinas, law professor and director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London, Professor Conor Gearty, professor of human rights law at LSE, Professor Francesca Klug, professorial research fellow at LSE, and David Lammy, former MP and a smember of the Privy Council from 2008. http://www2.lse.ac.uk/publicEvents/events/2010/20101006t1830vSZT.aspx
The LSE Space for Thought Literary Festival 2011: crossing borders will take place from Wednesday 16 to Saturday 19 February 2011. Its'programme of events, which will be free and open to all, are designed to cross disciplinary, international and metaphorical boundaries. www.lse.ac.uk/spaceforthought