Ratna Kapur: Gender, Alterity, and Human Rights: Freedom in a Fish Bowl
Ratna Kapur’s latest book Gender, Alterity, and Human Rights: Freedom in a Fish Bowlmasterfully tackles a normative claim that has been gaining increasing momentum over the last few decades: the human rights agenda has hit an impasse and needs serious transformation. Using unique comparative contexts, Kapur illustrates how the liberal rights regime—despite gesturing towards freedom enhancement—operates as a counter hegemonic governance system furthering mainly state and market interests. But unlike other critical scholars who have similarly criticized the rights project from the perspective of reviving or resurrecting it, Kapur’s contribution is decidedly committed to a retreat altogether. “The grim truth” Kapur asserts, “is that, on some level, our rights-related liberal projects are on life support and further palliation is pointless” (2018: 172). The weighty metaphor of a fish bowl is pointed because it highlights the trapped, contingent freedom that the rights agenda offers,...
I thank Kathryn McNeilly for thoughts and comments on earlier drafts. This review was especially enriched by conversations with Peter Goodrich, Alejandra Azuero Quijano (who introduced me to the work of Zenju Earthlyn Manuel), and my Appa (who was my first source of initiation to Sankara’s advaita).
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