Teaching the Moving Target: Human Rights as Struggle in History and in the Classroom

Teaching the Moving Target:

Human Rights as Struggle in History and in the Classroom


Alice Miller [bio]


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Teaching human rights from the standpoint of one who has participated in the struggle over the emergence of new norms and standards highlights contestation within human rights movements, as well as with states and other key players. Studying the evolution of health as a human right, women's rights and rights concerning sexuality reveal the complex interests and practices within NGOs, as well as practices of inclusion and exclusion among new and old voices in rights work, practices which have generated new contemporary global rights standards and claims. The archives at Columbia's Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research, as sites of documentation of these events, can play a specific, productive but not tension-free role in teaching human rights as a tool of struggle and a site of struggle. Such study can bring the duality of human rights' claims (to universality/presumptive truth and its particularities of place and time) to meaningful and productive life in the classroom. Access to the archives of key human rights NGOs on these and many other questions of evolving human rights norms can make teaching the corpus of rights work not only a question of received knowledge but a place of dynamic engagement with current needs and the future of rights work.


CHRDR Conference: 4-6 October 2007
Human Rights Archives and Documentation:
Meeting the Needs of Research, Teaching,
Advocacy and Social Justice

Selected Proceedings