Human Rights in the Neoliberal Imagination:
Mapping the “New Sovereignties”
a lecture by
JOHN NGUYET ERNI
Thursday, April 17th
Jordan Hall, Room A100,
4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
ABSTRACT: "The end of sovereignty": this has been an ominous refrain in the chorus of global political and human rights analyses aimed at reformulating a post-Cold War configuration of world power. In cultural studies, the same pronouncement is more likely made through a mix of theoretical exuberance and ambivalence toward a post-nationalist and cosmopolitan imaginary. This presentation takes as a point of departure the rise of "new sovereignties" - a fractured Westphalianism - as a rubric for understanding the political imagination about the international community today. Speaking from a position of trying to bridge cultural studies with human rights legal discourse, I shall address these questions: To what dimensions of the "new sovereignties" can the human rights legal discourse as we know it today still exert influence, given the new configurations of globally disaggregated power? With "rights" today reemerging as a bifurcation, how can cultural studies reconcile a theory of "rights" as subaltern claim-making with that of "rights" as an all-encompassing tool in the neoliberal order of world justice? Through a preliminary mapping of the legal, institutional, and teleological forces that shape the new sovereignties, I attempt to illuminate why rights as international recognition politics for the subaltern is inadvertently complicit with the reproduction of rights constitutive of empire.