What do we want? Human rights and Australian social movements 1945 - 1990

January 2016January 2019
UQ Fellowship

‘Human Rights’ is the international political language of the 21st century. Its principles – the defence of the individual against violations by governments and institutions via law or declaration – are used to justify both progressive legislation and imperialist wars. Proponents on either side of the political divide use it to oppose domestic violence or deploy it against abortion, often with seemingly equal effect. Yet, for a language with such fluid, even porous meaning, it has until recently received little by way of critical historical attention. This project – for the first time – charts the development and articulation of ‘human rights’ by Australian social movements. It will ask how Australians defined human rights? Where did this set of ideas come from, who articulated them, and who were human rights’ opponents?

Project members