Human Rights As Political Imaginary

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 8:45 AM
Room: Booth 46
Oral Presentation
Jose LOPEZ , University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada
The language of human rights has become one of the most important normative and political idioms of our time. Along with the struggle for democracy, the quest for human rights resonates with a striking number of societal and political projects; indeed, for some, it is the uncontested emancipatory project of a globalized world. Due to their ineradicable normative nature, however, normative approaches predominate in the human rights field; this remains the case even in the important emerging sociological scholarship.

This paper draws attention to the fact that human rights do not exist as a ready-made object of sociological analysis; hence their sociological “thingness” needs to be elucidated. The paper addresses the type of conceptual and theoretical work that is required to make human rights an object of sociological analysis in order to avoid normative restatements of the origin of human rights in a sociological register.

A model of human rights as political imaginary is proposed and used to constructively review contemporary sociological accounts of human rights. However rather than a mere overview, the conceptual anchor provided by the political imaginary model makes possible a cartographical approach to the field. Thus the goal of the paper is not simply to catalogue existing approaches, but to theoretically relate them to one another in order to contribute to the development of a more synthetic sociological framework for analyzing human rights.