Australian Journal of Human Rights – special edition

Selected papers from the Symposium have been published in a special edition of the Australian Journal of Human Rights:

Australian Journal of Human Rights 19(1)
Special Issue:

Human Rights in Context: Culture, Power and Personhood

Neil Maclean and Gaynor Macdonald  (University of Sydney)
Full text: Human Rights in Context: Culture, Power and Personhood


Samuel Martinez  (University of Connecticut)
An anthropologist among human rights experts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic: para-ethnographic perspectives on culture and rights

Maree Pardy  (University of Melbourne)
Under Western eyes again? Rights vernacular and the gender culture ‘clash’

Rosemary Wiss  (University of Sydney)
And justice for all? International anti-trafficking agendas and local consequences in a Phillipines sex tourism town

Michael Humphrey  (University of Sydney)
Where does human rights consciousness come from? Counterinsurgency, traumatisation and political subjectivity in Argentina

Gaynor Macdonald  (University of Sydney)
Who is the ‘human’ in ‘human rights’?

Neil Maclean  (University of Sydney)
Living with disability: care, rights and relational personhood

Eve Vincent  (University of Sydney)
‘Sticking up for the land’: Aboriginality, mining and the lived effects of native title

Jayson S Lamchek  (Australian National University)
Exercising rights into existence: new human rights strategies by Third World peoples


Symposium summary


Symposium Report:

Culture and Rights:

Scepticism, hostility and mutuality

This symposium was the product of our sense that the unresolved tension between culture and rights based perspectives continues to condition many aspects of contemporary anthropology: our on-going debate about the nature of culture, the relationship between anthropology and broader terrain of social science, and the politics of anthropological practice. That sense was grounded in a number of everyday engagements: the on-going politics of indigenous identity in Australia, the teaching of a Development studies program, the nature and politics of disability, the concrete circumstances of fieldwork for many of our postgraduate students.

The work of contemporary anthropologists such as Merry, Engle, Englund, Riles, Humphrey helped us sharpen our conceptualisation of this tension. At the same time we were particularly fortunate to have as a keynote speaker Dr. Samuel Martinez from the Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut. He brought to our discussions a deep understanding of the shifting quality of human rights instruments, of the strategic nature of their engagement and of the capacity of both culture and rights claims to conceal as much as they challenge. Martinez’s proposal of a “para-ethnographic” in which ethnographer and human rights investigator function as simply one kind of expert ‘among several’ finds echoes with a very diverse array of plurality of expertise, manifested as both partnership and conflict, that this symposium brought together.

The theme of indigenous rights claims and who controls their language and their recognition featured particularly strongly here, across a wide range of regional and national contexts (Australia, Ecuador, Nepal, Papua New Guinea). Other nexes around which the themes of papers converged included tensions between the generalising and universalising tendencies of rights language with the situational specificities of recognition of personhood; the implication of rights claim and recognition within the production of state power; the mutual implication of rights, culture, health and well-being; the relationships between human rights and property rights; the gendered tension between the discourse of victim of rights abuse and that of activist claimant of rights; violence as the ground of rights claims; the strategic deployment or rejection of a rights based language.

On the evening before the symposium, at the Macleay Museum, the session Voices of the Denied, and the launch of One Life, Two Stories, a story told by Nancy de Vries of her life since being taken from her Aboriginal mother at the age of 13 months, gave direct voice to the experiences of violence and marginalisation that make the contemporary politics of human rights such an urgent issue.

We were enormously pleased and stimulated by the response to the symposium and would like to thank all participants and presenters for the way they gave our sense of an issue form and substance.

Registering on the day

For those, who did not make it in time, here are your options:

  1. Full 2 days: AUD 180.00 (fully waged), AUD 90.00 (concession), AUD 25.00 (student). This option includes a dinner option.
  2. single day: AUD 100.00 (fully waged), AUD 50.00 (concession), AUD 25.00 (student). This option includes a dinner option.
  3. dinner only: AUD 50.00
Please click on the appropriate button:

Final Info on Registration

Dear all,

General registration for Culture and Rights closes on Tuesday lunch time. So use the possibility to register and guarantee yourself all conference materials.

However, we will facilitate ‘On The Day’ Registrations for the entire symposium for the standard rates online at the registration desk. You will need to bring you credit card.

For those who can make it only for one day, we open the  Single Day Registration on Tuesday 12 June 7.00am:

Rates are:

Fully waged single day: AUD 100.00

Concession single day: AUD 50.00

Student: AUD 25.00 (we accept cash payment)

Please note that credit card payment is essential for the Fully waged and concession rates!

Please also note that we do not offer part refunds, if you booked the full two days, but cannot stay for the full time.

Symposium Program Now ONLINE!

We have finally our program overview online, which tells you all about panels, presenters, rooms, times and links you to a downloadable PDF version.

To see the overview please click here

please do not forget to check out our abstracts, which you can find here

List of abstracts out now!

While we are still polishing the actual programme, we do not want to deny you the list of upcoming abstracts.

for more info on the speakers and abstract pdfs, click on the ABSTRACTS tab on the top of the page.

A whole list will be available here shortly.

John Boulton

Growing up our way or your way. Reconciling tradition with Kartiya way for children in remote Aboriginal communities.

Belinda Burbidge

Traditional Owners and Custodians: rights and relationships to land in central west New South Wales.

Kate Conigrave

Aboriginal Australians tackling alcohol: why both culture and epidemiology matter

Surya Dhungel

Dilemma of Culture and Rights in Post-conflict Societies

Luis Angosto Ferrandez

Towards a Culture of Materialism in Human Rights: Arguments For Socialising Environments and Their Relation to Human Diversities

Erin Fitz-Henry

How Far, and Where, Do ‘Rights’ Get Us?

Sascha Fuller

Behind the Seeds: USAID, Monsanto, Farmers’ Rights and Seed Sovereignty Contestations in Nepal.

Victoria Grieves

Jim Crow in the Modern Australian State: Lynching, Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and Other Race Hate Crimes Against Aboriginal people Within Settler Colonial Society

Sarah Holcombe

Negotiating conflicting pathways within the state

Michael Humphrey

Where Does Human Rights Consciousness Come From? Counterinsurgency, Traumatisation and Political Subjectivity in Argentina

Jayson S. Lamchek

Third World approaches to Culture and Human Rights: The Use and Non-use of Human Rights Vocabulary in Indigenous Peoples’ and undocumented Migrants’ Struggles

Vek Lewis

The Risks of Misrecognition: Transnational LGBT Rights Discourses and Activisms in the Context of Latin American Struggles

Chris Lyttleton

Human capital and its (self-) appreciation: risk and the unruly speculator in China-Thai borderlands.

Gaynor Macdonald

Human beings, persons and rights

Casimir MacGregor

Human Rights? The Embryo, Trans-Biology and Law in the Australian Human Embryonic Stem Cell and Cloning Debate.

Neil Maclean

Humanity, Rights and Relational Understandings of Personhood.

Mythily Meher

Occasional persons

Maree Pardy

Under western eyes. Again?

Eleanor Rimoldi

Who owns human rights?

Claudia Tazreiter

Emotional states: human emotions and the governing state in debates on rights and shared vulnerability

Victoria M. Time

Forced marriages, bride price, levirate:  Pox on Culture

Eve Vincent

‘The land is the land. The land is not negotiable.’ Opposition to mining on the Far West Coast of South Australia

Irene Watson

What makes human, inhuman, animal, and beast?

Elizabeth Watt

The Cape York Welfare Reform Trial as a case study of the implementation of the Capabilities Approach to Development: A ‘culturally- sensitive’ alternative?

Rosemary Wiss

International Anti-Trafficking Agendas and Local Consequences in a Philippines sex tourism community

Reception at Macleay Museum

All Symposium participants are cordially invited to attend the reception with light refreshments followed by a panel discussion:

“Voices of the Denied”

Macleay Museum

Tuesday 12 June 2012: 5.30 – 7pm

Gosper Lane
Sydney NSW 2006
(02)9351 2274