Rights After Wrongs

9780804798372: Hardback
Release Date: 25th May 2016

9780804799089: Paperback
Release Date: 25th May 2016

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 216

Edition: 1st Edition

Series Stanford Studies in Human Rights

Stanford University Press

Rights After Wrongs

Local Knowledge and Human Rights in Zimbabwe

Hardback / £74.00
Paperback / £21.99

The international legal framework of human rights presents itself as universal. But rights do not exist as a mere framework; they are enacted, practiced, and debated in local contexts. Rights After Wrongs ethnographically explores the chasm between the ideals and the practice of human rights. Specifically, it shows where the sweeping colonial logics of Western law meets the lived experiences, accumulated histories, and humanitarian debts present in post-colonial Zimbabwe.

Through a comprehensive survey of human rights scholarship, Shannon Morreira explores the ways in which the global framework of human rights is locally interpreted, constituted, and contested in Harare, Zimbabwe, and Musina and Cape Town, South Africa. Presenting the stories of those who lived through the violent struggles of the past decades, Morreira shows how supposedly universal ideals become localized in the context of post-colonial Southern Africa. Rights After Wrongs uncovers the disconnect between the ways human rights appear on paper and the ways in which it is possible for people to use and understand them in everyday life.

Contents and Abstracts
Introduction: The Rise of Rights Talk in Zimbabwe
chapter abstract

This chapter introduces the use of human rights discourse in Zimbabwe, and the study of human rights in the anthropological literature. The chapter traces the political and economic conditions in Zimbabwe from pre-independence to the present, arguing that there is a varied history of uses of rights in Zimbabwe that are tied to a different series of political projects. The chapter argues that rights emerge as part of the project of modernity and, as such, carry a particular epistemological history.

1'Panel-Beating the Law': Constitution Making in Zimbabwe
chapter abstract

This chapter examines the public dialogues and debates surrounding the writing of a new Zimbabwean Constitution that occurred in Zimbabwe in 2010. The example demonstrates how human and civil rights are open to (political and politicized) interpretation and contestation, both during the processes of fixing them via legal procedures and after they have been formally encoded. The finished versions of legal documents such as Constitutions and statutes emerge from and are enacted within fields of power. The Chapter argues that the global legal language of rights discourse that presents rights as inherent, universal, inalienable and indivisible is one that obscures the very real effects of power and politics in rights praxis; and that rights discourses are entangled within global political forms such as democracy, which use tropes such as freedom and dignity that reflect particular (historically constituted) ways of imagining politics and persons.

2Justice in a Time of Impunity: Remaking Social Worlds after Political Violence
chapter abstract

This chapter examines how ideas of justice and restoration, on national and on more intimate scales, were envisioned in Harare. The chapter firstly explores the surfacing of the model of transitional justice in governmental and non-governmental interventions in Zimbabwe. It then considers two alternative models of social restoration as encountered in Harare: the justice of the ancestral spirit world; and a 'healing circle' model used by a local civic organization. The chapter uses the theoretical lens of entanglement to argue that although there is an insertion of global discourses of human rights into local ideas of justice and restoration, there is little movement of local ideas into global discourses. Knowledge about justice is thus constituted within uneven fields of power.

3Producing Knowledge about Human Rights in Harare
chapter abstract

Despite globalization, with its increased mobility and flow of information along varied circuits, the processes of interconnection are not necessarily smooth. Human rights discourses follow (and constitute some of) these global circuits, and could be said to form one of the key ideologies of our time. This chapter examines the fractures of global circuits through an ethnographic exploration of the construction of human rights reports in Harare, and their mobilities as they leave Zimbabwe. Following a conceptual introduction, the chapter traces two rights-based texts from their origins in Zimbabwe through to their national and international dissemination.

4 Personhood and Rights among Zimbabwean Migrants in South Africa
chapter abstract

This chapter considers the use of law and ideas of human and civil rights by Zimbabweans living in, yet still seeking secure legal residence, in neighbouring South Africa. The chapter outlines South Africa's legal migration framework, and highlights some of the contradictions at play between human rights discourse and migration policy. The chapter shows that while interlocutors translated experiences of "suffering" into a language of human rights violations, the things that they considered a violation did not map easily onto the South African state's definition of a violation of human rights. Furthermore, it shows the disjuncture between Zimbabwean ideas of personhood/what it means to be a person, and the ideas of personhood that underlie human rights law.

Conclusion: The Situationality of Human Rights
chapter abstract

This chapter draws together the threads of the monograph to argue that human rights are social constructions that are used in complexly social environments. As such, they are always political. Pre-existing (and shifting) social categories, modes of thought, and political and moral systems are relevant to understanding the enactment of rights discourses.

Shannon Morreira is a social anthropologist and Lecturer in the Humanities Education Development Unit at the University of Cape Town.

“Shannon Morreira's Rights After Wrongs: Local Knowledge and Human Rights in Zimbabwe is a lucid examination of how urban Zimbabweans have strategically engaged with human rights under the regime of Robert Mugabe, widely recognized as one of Africa's longest-standing dictators….Ultimately, this book is a valuable reminder that as people around the world face political repression and authoritarianism, violence, economic inequality, and refugee precariousness, “human rights” are unlikely to provide a panacea.”—Kristin C. Doughty, American Anthropologist

"Shannon Morreira's Rights After Wrongs: Local Knowledge and Human Rights in Zimbabwe is a lucid examination of how urban Zimbabweans have strategically engaged with human rights under the regime of Robert Mugabe, widely recognized as one of Africa's longest-standing dictators.Ultimately, this book is a valuable reminder that as people around the world face political repression and authoritarianism, violence, economic inequality, and refugee precariousness, "human rights" are unlikely to provide a panacea."

Kristin C. Doughty
American Anthropologist

"The global movement of refugees and migrants is the human rights issue of the twenty-first century. Shannon Morreira elegantly documents the struggles of Zimbabwean refugees and exiles in South Africa, drawing out the wider implications for concepts of personhood, rights, and migration. Challenging the conventional distinction between economic migrants and political refugees, Morreira's analysis of the contradictions in the law has a direct bearing on policy discussions of immigration and asylum in South Africa and beyond."

Richard A. Wilson
University of Connecticut

"Rights After Wrongs explores how human rights discourses and the practices they enjoin travel—or fail to—as migrants move between sovereign states. Exploring disjunctures between ideals and practices, Morreira shows migrants' strategic use of discourses of rights and ubuntu. Unbound by national borders, this book is exceptional in its range and reach—a critical resource for scholars of rights and justice."

Fiona Ross
University of Cape Town