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Title: In the aftermath of critique we are not in epistemic free fall: human rights, the subaltern subject, and non-liberal search for freedom and happiness
Authors: Kapur, Ratna
Jindal Global Law School
Keywords: Non-Dualism
Postcolonial feminism
Postcolonial theory
Freedom and happiness
Human Rights
Advaita Philosophy
Issue Date: 31-Dec-2014
Publisher: Springer, Netherlands
Citation: Kapur, Ratna. (2014). In the aftermath of critique we are not in epistemic free fall: human rights, the subaltern subject, and non-liberal search for freedom and happiness. Law and Critique, Vol 25 No 1: 25-45
Abstract: The article challenges the claim that human rights, which have constituted one of the central tools by which to establish the truth claims of modernity, can produce freedom and meaningful happiness through the acquisition of more rights and more equality. Third World, postcolonial and feminist legal scholars have challenged the accuracy of this claim, amongst others. The critiques expose the discursive operations of human rights as a governance project primarily concerned with ordering the lives of non-European peoples, rather than a liberating force; and that the pre-given rational subject of human rights is contingent and one of the prime effects of power. I examine the problems with the liberal humanism of human rights by examining not only how it is linked to a specific understanding of the `good life’, freedom and happiness, but also how it closes off other emancipatory possibilities. The acquisition of human rights as objects that an individual has by virtue of being human, represent the terminal limits of human rights, rather than the moment when the human subject becomes empowered and liberated. I draw on queer affect theory to make a critique of happiness, to which I argue human rights are linked, and how the failed or unhappy subaltern subject exposes its normative composition. I discuss the resulting depth of the despair produced from the realisation that this political project cannot realise its promise of freedom and meaningful happiness, compelling a `turn away’ from human rights as an emancipatory project and a `turn towards’ other non-liberal philosophical traditions, in the search for alternative understandings of and space for freedom and happiness. I explore these possibilities specifically within the philosophical tradition of non-dualism (Advaita).
Description: Scopus Index
ISSN: 1572-8617 (Online)
0957-8536 (Print)
Appears in Collections:JGU Research Publications

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