1st Edition

Human Rights and Subjectivity Imagining a Sensing and Feeling Human

By Elisabeth Roy-Trudel Copyright 2025
    286 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book draws on a range of theoretical frameworks to challenge the limited conception of subjectivity upon which human rights are based.

    The book focuses on some of the ways in which dominant discourses are in tension with human rights’ fundamental claim to universality by ignoring multiple ways of being. Different theoretical and methodological approaches are used to analyse this creation of exclusions. These include Hannah Arendt’s figure of the refugee, posthumanist critiques and non-Western critical theories such as Black, Indigenous and decolonial approaches. Often these approaches are used in isolation, but together, they reveal how the dominant concept of subjectivity has always needed an ‘Other’ and that the ‘human’ at the heart of human rights is not a universal concept. The book also pursues an analysis of visual discourses in the field of international human rights, with a focus on the ways in which exclusions are represented and entrenched through the visual. It argues that international human rights are based on a vision-centred sensorium and certain processes of reasoning that exclude emotions. Finally, the book considers how international human rights could embrace other forms of thinking and being in the world and recognize different sensory experiences.

    This original perspective on the limits of human rights will appeal to legal theorists, socio-legal scholars, and others working in politics, sociology, anthropology and cultural studies with an interest in contemporary approaches to social justice and critical approaches.

    Part I: A challenge to the ‘human’ of human rights Introduction 1. Actualizing the figure of the refugee to challenge a system based on the citizen-subject 2. Human, right? Analysing the subject of human rights through posthumanist approaches 3. Contesting the dominant ontology and epistemology through critical theories from the margins Part II: Towards more sensuous and inclusive international human rights Introduction 4. Exposing the imagined subject of human rights through a visual discourse analysis 5. Sensing the subject of international human rights  


    Elisabeth Roy-Trudel is a member of the Centre for Sensory Studies at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.