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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

Part I - Genealogies and Contexts

  • Edited by Crystal Parikh, New York University
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • pp 11-72


This chapter gives an overview of the current debates regarding the way human rights has been defined and historicized. It argues that understanding these debates is crucial for an understanding of the ways in which human lights matter to literary study. Referencing the works of Johannes Morsink, Paul Gordon Lauren, Lynn Hunt, and Samuel Moyn, the author moves the through the varied points of origin and genealogies of human rights as we understand them today. The chapter shows that this present concept is by no means unambiguous, and argues that literature and its analysis provides us with one of the best ways to investigate the historical and political tensions that exist at its very foundations.