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The travel, translation and transformation of human rights norms

Book Contribution - Chapter

Human rights norms are not static. They travel within and between groups, localities, institutions and contexts. As they do so, they have to be translated, in a literal sense, but also in a substantive and cultural sense, in order to become meaningful. During this process of translation, human rights norms are often - consciously or unconsciously - transformed. These transformations have the capacity to shape the meaning and potential impact of human rights. If human rights norms are too formalized and professionalized, they are probably too remote from those who need their protection. At the same time, the transformations that happen during the translation process are often not neutral, and may reflect global asymmetries between U+2018centresU+2019 and U+2018peripheriesU+2019. But there is a difference between the processes of translation that takes place within the largely bureaucratic, and sometimes stodgy, international human rights institutions and the translations and transformations of human rights norms happening on an everyday basis in localities far away from these U+2018centresU+2019. Therefore, it is important to understand the many ways in which various kinds of rights users in various places are actively shaping - and sometimes initiating - these translation and transformation processes as agents. This chapter presents the travel, translation and transformation of human rights as a multi-directional, multi-faceted and complex process in which various meanings coexist, intersect and become mutually constitutive. It gives an overview of the existing literature on this topic and supplements this overview with empirical insights from various recent case studies.
Book: The Routledge handbook of translation and globalization
Pages: 441 - 455
Publication year:2020