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  159 Chapter Nine Eurocentric and Third-WorldHistories of Human Rights Critique, Recognition and Dialogue  José-ManuelBarreto We are the histories we live. —Eduardo Galeano The turn to history, which has both destabilized and renewed the theory of international law, has also made its way into the field of human rights. Thegrowing importance of historical research for the definition and the possibil-ities of human rights today cannot be disproved, and in fact, it is one of thescenarios in which, as Philip Alston (2013, 2043) put it, the battle over the‘soul’ of human rights is being fought today. Human rights history is beinginvestigated and written not for the sake of learning about the past andkeeping it in displays like those of an archaeology museum. Indeed, for thoseworking from the point of view of the history of the colonized or the ThirdWorld, rewriting history is a form of critique that seeks to redefine humanrights. The ultimate end is the decolonization of human rights, as well as thatof making them stronger legal, political and philosophical discourses, moreable to resist the abuses and economic violence that states, empires, transna-tional companies and international financial institutions inflict on the body of human beings and on nature all over the world.In the current panorama of histories of human rights it is possible todistinguish contrasting approaches. They are the result of disparities created by the modern geopolitics of knowledge production and have emerged fromdistant epistemic loci of enunciation—Europe or the West, the United States,the colonized world and the Third World. Over the last decades a number of   Chapter 9 160 solid critiques of Eurocentrism in general—as well as of the Eurocentrism pervading fields such as International Law and Human Rights—have beenformulated by different schools of thinking like Postcolonial and SubalternStudies (Guha 2002; Said 1978), the Black Atlantic (Gilroy 2010), Caribbeanand African Philosophy (Bogues 2003), Decolonial Theory (Barreto 2012;Dussel 2013; Mignolo 2000), the Epistemologies of the South (de SousaSantos 2007a), the Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL)(Anghie 2005; Barreto 2013a; Baxi 2013; Mutua 2002; Rajagopal 2003) andCritical Legal Studies (Fitzpatrick 2008; Koskenniemi 2011). Despite thedepth and the comprehensiveness of these critiques, contemporary historiog-raphies of human rights remain unaware of them and characteristically West-ern; according to these historiographies, human rights are born in the wake of European political events, enshrined in European legal texts and conceptual-ized by European thinkers.Within this intellectual panorama, this chapter questions the reliabilityand universality of the Western historiography and argues in favour of thelegitimacy of Third-World histories of human rights elaborated in the contextof modern colonialism. The method will be that of decolonial thinking,which is understood as an argumentative strategy or a dialectics of criticizingEurocentrism, of retrieving Third-World perspectives and of setting up adialogue between the two (Barreto 2018). Thus, the chapter begins with asurvey and a critique of histories of human rights elaborated from the per-spective of the West that are still hegemonic today, with special attention torecent US-centric interpretations. It then puts forward ideas about how ahistory of human rights can be written from the perspective of the ThirdWorld or the South. This is followed, in the final section of the chapter, bysetting up a dialogue between these two different historiographies. EUROCENTRICMODELSOFTHEHISTORYOFHUMANRIGHTS Let us examine critically five historiographies of human rights that have beentaken into consideration over the last decades in scholarly work: the philo-sophical history of natural law; human rights as the manifesto of modernity;human rights as a synthesis of liberal insights and Marxist critique; humanrights as a response to the crisis of modernity; and human rights as an off-spring of the 1970s.The history of human rights is manifold as it usually comprises an ac-count of political events, legal milestones and theoretical elaborations. How-ever, the first history of human rights to be examined here is one that exclu-sively considers their philosophical element and that is constructed ‘in theform of an alternative history of natural law’ (Douzinas 2000, 15). This   Eurocentric and Third-World Histories of Human Rights  161 history of ideas has been developed within the fields of political and legal philosophy and by the history of philosophy. 1 We are speaking about histori-cal narratives of natural law like those assembled by Ernst Bloch (1986) 2 andCostas Douzinas, 3 which expand from Greek philosophy and Roman juris- prudence, continue throughout medieval theology and end with modern and postmodern instantiations. In Douzinas’s historiography of natural law andhuman rights theory there is no sense of progress through epochs that leads toa culmination in contemporary positivization in international instruments andconstitutions all over the world. Above all, it is based on the idea that naturallaw is a ‘constant in the history of ideas’, and that there is a link between ‘theclassical tradition of natural law and the modern tradition of natural law andhuman rights’ (Douzinas 2000, 13, 15). In all the various conceptions of natural law, through modifications and reformulations, and even after thenew political philosophy of the individualist modern doctrine that ‘betrayed’the classical (Aristotelian) tradition—and still after the ‘death of Man’ andhumanism—there is a common core in natural law theories associated withthe unending and utopian struggle for ‘human dignity in freedom’ and ‘social justice’, as well as related to the critical capacity of natural law, both of which link natural law with contemporary struggles for human rights (Douzi-nas 2000, 15).Second in this revision is the conception according to which human rightsare the political manifesto of modernity. This is perhaps the more popular history of human rights. It emerged in the fields of constitutional law and political theory and rests on a particular philosophy of history. The historicalhorizon to think of human rights is that of societal progress and the boomingof political modernity, which is understood as a phenomenon characterized by the embodiment of liberty and Enlightenment in history, against the back-drop of the medieval or dark ages and absolutism. Human rights are intrinsi-cally linked to modernity: they are the more characteristic expression of theemancipatory powers of modernity. The key events of this interpretation of the history of human rights are two European eighteenth-century hallmarks,the French Revolution of 1789 and the  Declaration of the Rights of Man , published in the same year. The Rights of Man are understood not only as amanifesto of things to come but also as the materialization of the capacity for emancipation embedded in modernity as the translation of Enlightenmenttheory into practice (Habermas 2010, 464) and as the more idiosyncratichistorical expression of modern freedom, formal equality, democracy and therule of law. Proclaimed by the French National Assembly on behalf of the people, the Rights of Man stand against the absolutist state or the ancientregime, with its royal and aristocratic privileges and its structural abuse of  power and contempt for law. The philosophical reflections that supported or emerged out of these events are those by authors like Rousseau and Kant,who developed the notions of social contract, popular sovereignty, human  Chapter 9 162 dignity and autonomy or freedom as obedience to a law that individualscreated themselves.In the same line of reflection that finds the srcin of human rights in thenarrative of political progress and the ascent of modern democratic institu-tions in Europe, it is also common to include the English Civil Wars(1642–1651) and the Glorious Revolution (1688), which led to the 1689Declaration of Rights and the Bill of Rights. Others go back even further toincorporate in this tradition as its prehistory or an antecedent the 1215 MagnaCarta and the 1217 Charter of the Forest (Linebaugh 2008). In both cases, the party of the Parliament or a council of barons embarked on a revolutionary or a civil war, forced the king to accept the rule of law and constitutionalobligations and established some liberties or privileges that could not betarnished. The works of Hobbes and Locke, which were written in the middleof the tumultuous English seventeenth century and were inspiration and re-flection of the struggles between Royalists and Parliamentarians, gave thetheories of the social contract and individual natural rights their modernelaborations.The third model is that according to which human rights are a synthesis of democratic and socialist conceptions. Despite the common assumption thatsees human rights and socialism sitting at opposite sides of history and politi-cal theory, Marx’s defence of political rights (Marx 1978/1844), Engels’sdenunciation of the social conditions of workers (Engels 1987), as well as thesocialist contributions to the positivization of social and economic rights inthe constitutions of communist and social-democratic countries, have greatlyenhanced the tradition of human rights. This Leftist theory and practice has been included in the definition of human rights elaborated by Louis Henkin,according to which human rights are ‘a twentieth-century synthesis of aneighteenth-century thesis and a nineteenth-century antithesis’ (Marx 1978/1844, 5). This historical conception—or conceptual history—of human rightsis created following the dialectical structure in which a contradiction betweentwo initial moments is resolved in a conclusion that comprises in some waythe first two opposing ideas.In Henkin’s historical model, the eighteenth-century thesis is preciselythe one that is central to the first model: it refers to the legacy of freedomsand political rights that were characteristic of the Rights of Man. The nine-teenth-century antithesis is the Marxian critique of the inherent individualismof the Rights of Man and of the central role played in them by the right to private property—declared in the context of a revolution that led to theconstruction of a bourgeois state that, in turn, propped up a capitalist econo-my. The twentieth-century synthesis corresponds to the time in which wespeak of the interdependence of civil and political rights on the one hand andof the social and economic rights on the other. Democratic freedoms and thesatisfaction of basic needs are both necessary for social justice. According to   Eurocentric and Third-World Histories of Human Rights  163 Henkin, such a synthesis would have been enacted in history with the sum-mation of the contributions of both socialist and democratic lineages in so-cial-democratic regimes, mainly in Western Europe, which were able to com- bine in single nation-states individual freedoms, democracy and the welfarestate.The fourth model conceives of human rights as an exit to the crisis of modernity materialized in the Holocaust and can be understood as a post-modern conception of human rights. The birth of human rights is not relatedanymore to the flourishing of political modernity associated with the FrenchRevolution, as in the cases of the second and third models. Instead, thegrounding hallmark of this conception of the history of rights is the collapseof modernity in the barbarity of the Holocaust. The capacity for violence of modernity would have overwhelmed its emancipatory power, as Adorno andHorkheimer postulated (1997, xi–xiii; xvi–xvii). Adorno finds in the geno-cide of the European Jews perpetrated by the Nazi regime an event of such ahorror that it divides history in two and marks such a break with the name‘Auschwitz’ (Adorno 1973, 366). In this connection, human rights, in their new incarnation as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,would be a response to the horrors of ‘Auschwitz’, one orientated by theimperative ‘Auschwitz never again’. As a consequence, as Richard Rorty(1993, 115) and Costas Douzinas (2007, 71) state, we would be living now ina post-Holocaust human rights culture.These four models of the history of human rights are Eurocentric as theycome from a local or provincial landscape, that of Europe. They have as their locus of enunciation the history and the geography of Europe; according tothis history, human rights are born in the wake of European political events,enshrined in European legal texts and conceptualized by European thinkers.The events can be the English and French Revolutions and the Holocaust.The legal milestones include the Bill of Rights and the Rights of Man. Trage-dians and Greek philosophers, Roman jurists, medieval theologians and mod-ern and postmodern thinkers like Hobbes, Kant, Marx and Rorty are part of its philosophical canon. As a consequence, these histories of human rightsare limited, biased, incomplete and not universal. What is worse, the abyssalway of thinking characteristic of the modern West, leads to the practice of excluding or silencing other histories that are elaborated from other perspec-tives. AUS-CENTRICHISTORYOFHUMANRIGHTS? The last model to examine is that according to which human rights were bornin the 1970s, a historiography recently construed by Samuel Moyn in his
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