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Rightlessness in an Age of Rights$
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Ayten Gundogdu

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199370412

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199370412.001.0001

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Declarations of a Right to Have Rights

Declarations of a Right to Have Rights

(p.164) 5. Declarations of a Right to Have Rights
Rightlessness in an Age of Rights

Ayten Gündoğdu

Oxford University Press

This chapter offers a new reading of Arendt’s proposal to rethink human rights in terms of “a right to have rights” (right to citizenship) for the purposes of understanding the contemporary struggles of undocumented immigrants. Many readers have approached this proposal by asking whether Arendt offers a normative foundation for human rights. This chapter changes the focus instead to political practices of founding human rights. Especially important in this regard are struggles articulating new rights claims that cannot be fully authorized by existing legal and normative frameworks. To rethink these claims as political practices of founding human rights, the chapter engages with Arendt’s account of revolutions, her Montesquiean understanding of principle, and her reflections on civil disobedience. The reading suggests that human rights derive their validity not from an extra-political source but instead from political practices of augmenting the principle of “equaliberty” that becomes manifest in modern rights declarations—a point developed by engaging with the arguments of Balibar and Lefort. This principle owes its universal, exemplary validity to political practices that activate it time and again to reinvent human rights. To grapple with the perplexities of such practices, the chapter provides a detailed discussion of sans-papiers in France.

Keywords:   declaration, principle, Montesquieu, exemplary validity, universality, Lefort, Balibar, equaliberty, sans-papiers

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