Back to All Events

Talk by Prof. Ratna Kapur: Gender, Alterity and Human Rights

  • SW1.17, Somerset House East Wing KCL, The Strand London WC2R 2LS United Kingdom (map)

The talk draws on Professor Kapur's very recently released book, Gender, Alterity and Human Rights: Freedom in a Fishbowl, Edward Elgar 2018. In the book, Professor Kapur interrogates the claim that human rights produce freedom and draw attention to how they have been deployed to advance political and cultural intents rather than bringing about freedom for disenfranchised groups, focussing on gender, sexual and religious minorities. Campaigns for same-sex marriage, ending violence against women and the Islamic veil bans in Europe, demonstrate how such interventions have at times advanced neo-liberal agendas, new forms of imperialism and enabled a carceral politics rather than producing freedom for its constituencies. 

In her talk she will draw attention to how human rights emerge as a project of containment and as incapable of producing meaningful freedom. The analysis requires a turn away from liberal freedom on which human rights are based, and a turn towards non-liberal registers of freedom. These alternative epistemologies have often been excluded or suppressed. Professor Kapur provides examples of the possibilities of non-liberal freedom by offering reflections on Saba Mahmood's work on the Islamic veil, Foucault’s turn to political spirituality and the revolutionary potential of Shia Islam, and Eve Sedgwick’s engagement with Mahayana Buddhist epistemology. Professor Kapur will conclude with remarks on the relevance and significance of non-liberal understandings of freedom to the futurity of human rights.