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Inhaltsangabe: There have been remarkable developments in the field of human rights in the past few decades. Still, millions of asylum-seekers, refugees, and undocumented immigrants continue to find it challenging to access human rights. In this book, Ayten Gündogdu builds on Hannah Arendt's analysis of statelessness and argues that these challenges reveal the perplexities of human rights.
Human rights promise equal personhood regardless of citizenship status, yet their existing formulations are tied to the principle of territorial sovereignty. This situation leaves various categories of migrants in a condition of "rightlessness," with a very precarious legal, political, and human standing. Gündogdu examines this problem in the context of immigration detention, deportation, and refugee camps. Critical of the existing system of human rights without seeing it as a dead end, she argues for the need to pay closer attention to the political practices of migrants who challenge their condition of rightlessness and propose new understandings of human rights.
What arises from this critical reflection on human rights is also a novel reading of Arendt, one that offers refreshing insights into various dimensions of her political thought, including her account of the human condition, "the social question," and "the right to have rights." Rightlessness in an Age of Rights is a valuable addition to the literature on Hannah Arendt and a vital way of rethinking human rights as they relate to contemporary issues of immigration.
In her bold and erudite book on human rights, Ayten Gundogdu has achieved two results: a critical reading of Hannah Arendt, using her 'perplexities' to reveal her thought about statelessness and the right to have rights, and a deconstruction of paradoxes affecting 'universal rights' in our post-totalitarian age, as illustrated by the situation of migrants. The 'undecided struggle' that she describes is grim, but also an eloquent plea for the capacity of victims to become agents of their own history. (Etienne Balibar, author of Equaliberty)
Ayten Gundogdu knows she cannot rest content with asking what Hannah Arendt would say about human rights now, which have risen and transformed so substantially over the past half-century. In this marvelous book, Gundogdu reinterprets Arendt's critique, and revises it where necessary, in order to vindicate a promising new approach for the field. Rejecting their deployment as a rhetoric of compassionate aid or even military intervention, Gundogdu shows a truly political vision of human rights will engage the social realm and prompt the reinvention of claims and movements beyond their contemporary limitations. The result is an exemplary lesson in how to connect past thinking with present realities. (Samuel Moyn, Harvard University)
Bristling with insights into the plight of migrants in today's global economy, Gundogdu's book offers a creative rereading of Hannah Arendt's controversial critique of human rights. She perceptively grasps that the key insight in Arendt's difficult notion of a 'right to have rights' is not to ground rights in a normative foundation but to reanimate them as quotidian political practices of founding. In this way, Gundogdu offers a fresh response to the tenacious problems of rightlessness which at once includes and goes well beyond juridical appeals to the sovereign state. (Linda Zerilli, University of Chicago)
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