Human rights are profoundly rights of the body. They are rights enjoyed by individuals by virtue of being human—and as a consequence of sharing the vulnerability intrinsic to human existence. Core human rights work addresses racism, torture, and genocide—crimes against humanity. Lately reproductive and sexual rights or rights of impairment and disability have been at the forefront of social discourse. “Human security” provides an even broader umbrella. But in each case the key concern of human rights is the self-preservation of individuals, groups, and the entire human species in their global environment.
In this program, the leaders of the University of Chicago’s Human Rights Program—Michael Geyer, its faculty director and a prominent historian of war and political violence, and Susan Gzesh, executive director of the program, a lawyer, and a well-known expert on migration—discuss new work in the field of human rights that puts some very old ideas to new uses. The Chicago Human Rights Program is unique for its interdisciplinary work and for integrating theoretical and philosophical explorations of core questions concerning the nature of human rights with the critical engagement with institutions designed to promote and protect human rights in the contemporary world.
Recorded Sunday, October 24, 2010, at the International House, the University of Chicago.