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Keywords:

  • historicization;
  • human rights;
  • liberation theology;
  • rights discourse;
  • rights of the poor

In this article, the author traces the response of liberation theologians to human rights initiatives through three distinct stages over the past thirty years: from an initial avoidance of the concept, to an early critique, and then to a nuanced theological appropriation. He contends that liberation theology brings a thoroughgoing concern for the poor and an innovative methodology of historicization to the discussion of human rights. In clarifying the treatment of human rights within a specific religious movement, the author also addresses larger questions about the specific role of human rights language. To this end, the article shows how liberation theologians have grappled concretely with the divisions among different ‘generations’ of rights, various rights discourses, and diverse options for rights advocacy.