Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Alicia Ely Yamin's "When Misfortune Becomes Injustice"

Alicia Ely Yamin has spent half of her professional career working outside the United States, with and through local organizations. She currently leads the Global Health and Rights Project, a collaboration of the Petrie-Flom Center on Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics at Harvard Law School and the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator at Harvard University. Yamin is known globally for her pioneering scholarship and advocacy in relation to economic and social rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the right to health.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, When Misfortune Becomes Injustice: Evolving Human Rights Struggles for Health and Social Equality, and reported the following:
Page 99 sets out the concluding reflections in a chapter about the 1990’s, “Diverging Parables of Progress,” and indeed it does reflect many of the themes, as well as the approach of the book. The book weaves together vignettes of personal encounters and human stories with analysis of evolving frameworks of law, development and public health. On page 99, the concluding reflection on the events of that time opens with a vignette from a “Symbolic Tribunal on Maternal Mortality and Obstetric Violence” in Mexico City, where I participated as a ‘judge” in 2016. The page captures the duality of the narrative that plays out throughout the book: on the one hand, we see that much had changed in terms of using human rights to advance women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, and health rights generally, since the Zapatistas had launched their rebellion in 1994, which is where the chapter opens. There had been a dramatic evolution in norms, as well as institutions and procedures to enforce them. At the same time, the 1990’s marked a significant deepening of international economic governance along neoliberal lines (including through trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement) which over these years has increasingly limited the possibilities for achieving political transformation through human rights. Page 99 and the concluding reflections on “Diverging Parables of Progress” epitomize the balance struck throughout the book. On the one hand, dividing the narrative of deploying human rights for social justice in health and beyond into a temporal sequence, exposes why human rights strategies have not been able to adequately confront ballooning social and health inequalities within and across countries, which progressive critics of human rights have underscored in a number of recent books. On the other hand, the account undermines claims to ahistorical givens and rejects fatalism regarding the possibilities of reenergizing human rights struggles for the equal dignity of diverse persons across our shared and irreplaceable planet, which includes economic justice.
Learn more about When Misfortune Becomes Injustice at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue