Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Lindsey N. Kingston's "Fully Human"

Lindsey N. Kingston is Associate Professor of International Human Rights at Webster University in Saint Louis, Missouri, where she also directs the Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies.

Kingston applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Fully Human: Personhood, Citizenship, and Rights, and reported the following:
Fully Human: Personhood, Citizenship, and Rights focuses on how the international community determines who is worthy of fundamental rights. Human rights are supposedly universal and inalienable – meaning everyone has them by virtue of being human, and nothing justifies canceling them out – but some people are better positioned to enjoy essential protections. These rights-based inequalities illustrate the “hierarchies of personhood” that are built into our state-centric international system. From this perspective, some people “count” more than others; some are recognized as more “fully human,” in a sense.

Page 99 centers on the issue of forced displacement, and in particular highlights the pitfalls of the modern refugee rights regime. At the start of the page, I write that this regime “clings to universal norms and centers its work on the notion of the state as the duty-bearer of human rights.” For instance, the UN Refugee Convention requires refugees to cross state borders as they flee persecution. Yet this narrow definition of “refugee” fails to acknowledge the broader harms caused by the absence of state protection. The classification of many migrants as “illegal” immigrants – even as they try to escape pervasive rights abuses back home – demonstrates how many displaced persons lack any government duty-bearer to appeal to. (This lack of a meaningful, beneficial relationship to a state constitutes a lack of what I term “functioning citizenship”.)

Much like approaches to other human rights issues discussed throughout the book, the refugee rights regime relies on a false understanding of the broader international system. “[C]urrent approaches to forced displacement are also guilty of relying on the fiction that functioning citizenship is a usual state of being,” I argue. “Displacement is approached as a temporary problem – a rift in the relationship between citizen and state that can, for a limited duration, be addressed by stopgap protections…” In reality, however, forced displacement is an enduring feature of the world system. Indeed, so are the widespread rights abuses and lack of recognition outlined throughout Fully Human.
Learn more about Fully Human at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue