Introduction to “Anthropology and Human Rights in a New Key”



In this “In Focus” introduction, I begin by offering an overview of anthropology's engagements with human rights following the American Anthropological Association's (AAA) 1947 “Statement on Human Rights.” After offering a rereading of the Statement, I describe the two major anthropological orientations to human rights that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, following several decades of relative disengagement. Finally, I locate the articles in relation to this history and indicate how, when taken as a whole, they express a new key or register within which human rights can be studied, critiqued, and advanced through anthropological forms of knowledge. This “In Focus” is in part an argument for an essentially ecumenical anthropology of human rights, one that can tolerate, and indeed encourage, approaches that are both fundamentally critical of contemporary human rights regimes and politically or ethically committed to these same regimes.