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Trafficking Women's Human Rights$
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Julietta Hua

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780816675609

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816675609.001.0001

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Universalism and the Conceptual Limits to Human Rights

Universalism and the Conceptual Limits to Human Rights

(p.1) 1. Universalism and the Conceptual Limits to Human Rights
Trafficking Women's Human Rights

Julietta Hua

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter examines the conceptual terms through which human rights is framed in order to tease out the epistemological and ontological premises that prescribe human rights mechanisms such as the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drafted in the post-World War II moment, is often cited as the cornerstone and origin of contemporary human rights. Rather than situate temporal origins, this chapter considers the epistemological origins of the contemporary concept of human rights in order to situate strategies like translation that are touted as a means to discover truly universal principles. In particular, it looks at the debates around translation and cultural relativism that continue to shape human rights debates, along with the role of the law in naturalizing certain assumptions about human rights. These debates indicate how the idea of human rights is framed primarily through the notion of representation—of representing humanity and representing fairly different cultural definitions of universal principles. Finally, the chapter explores the paradox of universalism, strategies of translation, and the politics of representation in relation to human rights.

Keywords:   human rights, Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, translation, cultural relativism, law, humanity, universalism, politics of representation

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