6 New Books on Human Rights | Facing History & Ourselves
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6 New Books on Human Rights

Below are 6 books published in 2021 that speak to underacknowledged dimensions of human rights in history, teaching, and contemporary global society.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Use this unit to help students gain context on the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the role of Eleanor Roosevelt in its creation, and the legacies of this document today. 

Here at Facing History, we see awareness months as opportunities to deepen our knowledge of and attention to key histories and related areas of contemporary concern. However, the focus on these issues during one particular month can further marginalize the very concerns we aim to elevate. With this in mind, what follows is an invitation to engage with important themes raised by Global Human Rights Month in December and throughout all of the months of the year.

These titles cover significant thematic ground including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; global calls for reparations; connections between children’s rights and human rights; the relationship between ecocide and genocide; and the essential question of how to teach students about human rights.

Members of our staff are exploring these titles in an effort to deepen our engagement with new scholarship and we invite you to explore them alongside us and share your learnings in the comments. Below are excerpts from each book’s publisher:

  1. Article by Article: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights for a New Generation 
    by Johannes Morsink 

    “The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is one of the most important and debated sociopolitical documents of the twentieth century. A leading authority on the UDHR, Johannes Morsink...has now written a volume for a new generation of human rights students and activists, one that presents an article-by-article account of the formulation of each article in the UDHR… Throughout the book, Morsink explains how this 1948 iconic text can help us in the twenty-first century. He shows us the high moral ground we need to fight evils perpetuated during and after World War II that now present themselves in new garb and does so in a clear and concise manner.” ⁠—University of Pennsylvania Press
  2. Time for Reparations: A Global Perspective
    Eds. Jacqueline Bhabha, Margareta Matache, Caroline Elkins 

    “In this sweeping international perspective on reparations, Time for Reparations makes the case that past state injustice—be it slavery or colonization, forced sterilization or widespread atrocities—has enduring consequences that generate ongoing harm, which needs to be addressed as a matter of justice and equity. Time for Reparations provides a wealth of detailed and diverse examples of state injustice, from enslavement of African Americans in the United States and Roma in Romania to colonial exploitation and brutality in Guatemala, Algeria, Indonesia, Jamaica, and Guadeloupe. From many vantage points, contributing authors discuss different reparative strategies and the impact they would have on the lives of survivor or descendant communities.” ⁠—University of Pennsylvania Press
  3. Are You With Me?: Kevin Boyle and the Human Rights Movement
    by Mike Chinoy  

    “This compelling account of Kevin Boyle’s life and work is a remarkable tale of how a taxi driver’s son from Northern Ireland inspired the human rights movement around the world… He was a co-founder of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) and the People’s Democracy, mediated during the 1981 hunger strikes and helped forge the basis for the agreement that ended the Troubles… Through a series of landmark cases at the European Court of Human Rights, he left an enduring mark on international human rights law… Though he was a towering figure, his personal story is not well known. Now, based on years of research, thousands of documents, and scores of interviews, former CNN correspondent Mike Chinoy has crafted the compelling life story of a remarkable Irishman.” ⁠—The Lilliput Press
  4. Educating for Peace and Human Rights: An Introduction
    by Maria Hantzopoulos, Monisha Bajaj

    “Over the past five decades, both peace education and human rights education have emerged distinctly and separately as global fields of scholarship and practice. Promoted through multiple efforts (the United Nations, civil society, grassroots educators), both of these fields consider content, processes, and educational structures that seek to dismantle various forms of violence, as well as move towards cultures of peace, justice and human rights. Educating for Peace and Human Rights... introduces students and educators to the challenges and possibilities of implementing peace and human rights education in diverse global sites.” ⁠—Bloomsbury Academic
  5. Suffer the Children: A Theoretical Foundation for the Human Rights of the Child
    by Richard P. Hiskes

    “In 1973, Hillary Rodham Clinton famously stated that ‘children's rights’ is a slogan in search of a definition, used to bolster various arguments for peace and for specific rights, but without any coherent conception of children as political beings. In 1989, the United Nations established the basis for this definition in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a document every nation in the world, save the United States, has ratified. Still, human rights theorists, scholars, and jurists continue to disagree as to the theoretical justification for children's human rights. In Suffer the Children, Richard P. Hiskes establishes the first substantive theoretical foundation for the human rights of children. As Hiskes argues, recognizing the rights of children fundamentally alters the meaning and usefulness of human rights in a global context… Hiskes provides a new critical assessment of the United Nations CRC and explores child activism for human rights worldwide—in courts, on social networks, and in public demonstrations—to show how children are already claiming their rights in ways that will fundamentally change the meaning both of rights themselves and of democratic processes.” —Oxford University Press
  6. Scorched Earth: Environmental Warfare as a Crime against Humanity and Nature 
    by Emmanuel Kreike 

    “The environmental infrastructure that sustains human societies has been a target and instrument of war for centuries, resulting in famine and disease, displaced populations, and the devastation of people’s livelihoods and ways of life. Scorched Earth traces the history of scorched earth, military inundations, and armies living off the land from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, arguing that the resulting deliberate destruction of the environment― 'environcide'―constitutes total war and is a crime against humanity and nature… Shedding light on the premodern origins and the lasting consequences of total war, Scorched Earth explains why ecocide and genocide are not separate phenomena, and why international law must recognize environmental warfare as a violation of human rights.” —Princeton University Press

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