Domesticating Human Rights on African Soil: Theorizing from Practice

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Asare, Abena Ampofoa

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The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice


In the 70th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), this paper proposes an alternative perspective on the progress of the international human rights regime inaugurated in 1948. Focusing on the multiple ways that international human rights discourse is deployed in diverse African locales throughout the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, this paper launches the concept of domestication as a way to apprehend the variety of human rights practice. In so doing, this paper challenges definitions of human rights progress that focus on expanding global consensus, and instead theorizes a future for human rights discourse that is rooted in difference, particularly the divergent strategies and ideologies of diverse local stakeholders.



Dr. Abena Ampofoa Asare is Associate Professor of Africana Studies and History at Stony Brook University. Her research and writing span questions of human rights, citizenship and transformative justice in Africa and the African diaspora. Her work can be found in The Radical Teacher, The International Journal of Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, African Arguments, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, among other places. She is the author of Truth Without Reconciliation: A Human Rights History of Ghana (University of Pennsylvania, 2018) which was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title. In 2018-2019, she will be Scholar-in-Residence at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

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