Call for Papers: Redistributive Human Rights?

Miniature people standing on piles of different heights of coins. Image: Hyejin Kang/Shutterstock

On Thursday 31 January and Friday 1 February 2019, UNSW Sydney will host a workshop that considers the different ways in which the language and frameworks of human rights have been mobilised - both to make redistribute justice claims or to contest economic inequalities, but also to close down political discussions around distributional questions and crush Third World demands for global wealth redistribution.

We hope to interrogate, why and how, at specific moments and in specific places, human rights movements and NGOs operated as either “powerless companions” or as “fellow travellers” to elitist economic agendas as well as to excavate moments when rights movements committed to companionships of solidarity based on building the power of the marginalised.

We invite papers that seek to understand the historical, political and economic conditions in which rights frameworks function.

This workshop aims to build on and extend current debates about the relationship between human rights and economic inequality.

We hope to enrich these discussions by paying attention to the complex and varied nature of human rights movements, the historical contingency of human rights frameworks and the differing visions and forms of rights. In doing so, we aim to deepen understandings of the “distributional imagination and political economy” of human rights. 

We welcome engagements with the thematic of the workshop from the perspective of multiple disciplines: philosophy, political theory, sociology, law and legal theory, history, and anthropology. Possible topics include, but are by no means limited to, the following:


  • The use of human rights discourses to contest economic inequality
  • The relationship between human rights and neoliberalism
  • Uses of the language of human rights both for and against the New International Economic Order
  • The contemporary relevance of Marxist and Third World Approaches to International Law (‘TWAIL’) critiques of human rights
  • Genealogies of social and economic rights
  • Human rights-based campaigns against global corporations
  • Human rights and Corporate Social Responsibility (‘CSR’)
  • Non-human rights based movements (or alternatives to human rights) to contest economic inequality
  • Human rights, communism and utopia


Please send a 400-word abstract of your proposed paper to the workshop organisers: by Monday 12 November 2018.

Convenors: Jessica Whyte (University of Western Sydney), Ben Golder (UNSW Sydney) and Julia Dehm (La Trobe University).

Supported by: Australian Human Rights Institute, UNSW Sydney, University of Western Sydney, La Trobe University and the Institute for International Law and the Humanities, Melbourne Law School.

Confirmed keynote speaker: Samuel Moyn, Professor of Law and History, Yale University