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Human Rights as War by Other Means
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Human Rights as War by Other Means
Peace Politics in Northern Ireland

Jennifer Curtis

304 pages | 6 x 9 | 2 illus.
Cloth 2014 | ISBN 9780812246193 | $75.00s | Outside the Americas £60.00
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights

"Human Rights as War by Other Means: Peace Politics in Northern Ireland offers an important contribution to the literature on Northern Ireland by providing a rich descriptions of rights-based activism in Belfast from the 1960s to present. . . . Curtis's critique of rights activism is timely and offers a fitting reproach of the contemporary narrative about human rights that emerged as part of the peace process."—International Journal on World Peace

"The premise of this book is excellent, original, and significant. Jennifer Curtis makes an important contribution to an understanding of the peace process and in particular of the hidden roles played so often by civil society in forging social change."—Michael O'Flaherty, University of Ireland, Galway

"This is one of the most sustained, persuasive, and comprehensive analyses of the progress of the Northern Ireland peace process since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998."—Hastings Donnan, Queen's University, Belfast

Following the 1998 peace agreement in Northern Ireland, political violence has dramatically declined and the region has been promoted as a model for peacemaking. Human rights discourse has played an ongoing role in the process but not simply as the means to promote peace. The language can also become a weapon as it is appropriated and adapted by different interest groups to pursue social, economic, and political objectives. Indeed, as violence still periodically breaks out and some ethnocommunal and class-based divisions have deepened, it is clear that the progression from human rights violations to human rights protections is neither inevitable nor smooth.

Human Rights as War by Other Means traces the use of rights discourse in Northern Ireland's politics from the local civil rights campaigns of the 1960s to present-day activism for truth recovery and LGBT equality. Combining firsthand ethnographic reportage with historical research, Jennifer Curtis analyzes how rights discourse came to permeate grassroots politics and activism, how it transformed those politics, and how rights discourse was in turn transformed. This ethnographic history foregrounds the stories of ordinary people in Northern Ireland who embraced different rights politics and laws to conduct, conclude, and, in some ways, continue the conflict—a complex portrait that challenges the dominant postconflict narrative of political and social abuses vanquished by a collective commitment to human rights. As Curtis demonstrates, failure to critique the appropriation of rights discourse in the peace process perpetuates perilous conditions for a fragile peace and generates flawed prescriptions for other conflicts.

Jennifer Curtis is an honorary fellow in social anthropology at the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh.

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