Agamben, Arendt and human rights: Bearing witness to the human

European Journal of Social Theory 15 (4):522-536 (2012)
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Abstract

The key theme in this essay is the rethinking of the human, as inspired by the work of Giorgio Agamben and Hannah Arendt. The human here is not a model or concept to be realised, just as community to which the human is linked is not an ideal, but a ‘community to come’. This is revealed only by paying close attention to modes of bearing witness to the human, as instanced, for example, by Agamben’s text, Remnants of Auschwitz. Current notions of political community and the human thus need to be reassessed. Only by doing this will it be possible to address the crucial issues that currently confront human rights—issues such as the tension between the principle of universal human rights and that of state sovereignty, the growing problem of statelessness, and the reduction of human rights to biopolitical humanitarianism.

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