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The Trauma of Vulnerability: Human Rights and the Real

The Trauma of Vulnerability: Human Rights and the Real <jats:p> The history of human rights is ambiguous and uncertain. Appeals to rights have been used to secure the privileges of the powerful and to legitimate the status quo. Appeals to rights have been used to expose the evils of cruelty and oppression. Given this muddied history we cannot assume that calls for human rights will operate in the name of justice. Cognizant of this history, I argue that human rights discourses can be a force for justice if: (1) we read human rights demands as an attempt to respond to the experience of the destabilizing, destructive and incomprehensible forces that Lacan calls the Real and that Adriana Cavero calls horrorism; and (2) if we use human rights discourses to respond to the trauma of encountering this horror by defining the human dignity and bodily integrity that human rights claims are intended to protect in terms of the dignity and integrity of the vulnerable body. I argue that if we persist in fleeing our vulnerability by using human rights discourse to insist on our autonomous sovereignty we will perpetuate the cycle of violence endemic to human history. </jats:p> http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Somatechnics Edinburgh University Press

The Trauma of Vulnerability: Human Rights and the Real

Somatechnics , Volume 1 (2): 298 – Sep 1, 2011

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Publisher
Edinburgh University Press
Copyright
© Edinburgh University Press
Subject
Articles; Film, Media and Cultural Studies
ISSN
2044-0138
eISSN
2044-0146
DOI
10.3366/soma.2011.0021
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

<jats:p> The history of human rights is ambiguous and uncertain. Appeals to rights have been used to secure the privileges of the powerful and to legitimate the status quo. Appeals to rights have been used to expose the evils of cruelty and oppression. Given this muddied history we cannot assume that calls for human rights will operate in the name of justice. Cognizant of this history, I argue that human rights discourses can be a force for justice if: (1) we read human rights demands as an attempt to respond to the experience of the destabilizing, destructive and incomprehensible forces that Lacan calls the Real and that Adriana Cavero calls horrorism; and (2) if we use human rights discourses to respond to the trauma of encountering this horror by defining the human dignity and bodily integrity that human rights claims are intended to protect in terms of the dignity and integrity of the vulnerable body. I argue that if we persist in fleeing our vulnerability by using human rights discourse to insist on our autonomous sovereignty we will perpetuate the cycle of violence endemic to human history. </jats:p>

Journal

SomatechnicsEdinburgh University Press

Published: Sep 1, 2011

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