51. Historikertag, Panel “Matters of Law or Religion? Human Rights, Ideology, and Religion in the Divided Germany and Europe after 1945”

Panel: “Matters of Law or Religion? Human Rights, Ideology, and Religion in the Divided Germany and Europe after 1945”

Organized by Dr. Sebastian Gehrig and Dr. Ned Richardson-Little

Human rights and international law garnered increasing popularity since the end of the Second World War. Since the end of the Cold War, the language of human rights has reached unprecedented social and political legitimacy. At the same time, however, the religious, legal, and ideological origins of competing ideas of human rights fell into oblivion. The secular and legal language of today’s human rights debates has helped obscuring their conflict-ridden history. Recent scholarship has thus emphasised the role of ideological conflicts, church and religious activism, and social movements in the emergence of human rights as a political language and part of international law. How did socialist human rights concepts develop alongside and in conflict with liberal-democratic ideas? What was the role of the churches, religious groups and activists in the negotiation of human rights language? How were human rights politically employed and by whom? Was the so-called human rights revolution of the 1970s much more triggered by Third World liberation ideology and decolonisation movements than Western governments? And finally: Did religious and ideological beliefs structure the evolution of human rights language and international law much more than legal thought? This section explores human rights concepts, their political language, and religious and ideological roots as an integral part of the Cold War in Germany and beyond.

 Presentations:

PD Dr. Katharina Kunter (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)

Säkularisierungskitt und Antikriegswaffe? Christentum und Menschenrechte nach 1945

Dr. Ned Richardson-Little (University of Exeter)

Das Scheitern der Sozialistischen Menschenrechte

Dr. Sebastian Gehrig (University of Oxford)

Der Kampf um das menschenfreundlichere System: Menschenrechte, das geteilte Deutschland und die Vereinten Nationen nach 1945

Dr. Fabian Klose (Leibniz Institut für Europäische Geschichte Mainz)

Zur Idee der Humanitären Intervention im Zeichen des Kalten Krieges, 1945-1989

Commentary:

PD Dr. Annette Weinke (Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena)

Writing Human Rights into the History of State Socialism

Ned Richardson-Little

Associate Research Fellow, University of Exeter

Cross-posted from http://imperialglobalexeter.com/

24/03/14

The collapse of the Communist Bloc in 1989-1991 is viewed as one of the great triumphs of the human rights movement. But this ignores how socialist elites of the Eastern Bloc viewed themselves: not as the villains in the story of human rights, but as the champions.

In recent years, the rapidly expanding field of human rights history has done much to complicate triumphalist narratives of inevitable victory for Western liberal democracy over the forces of tyranny. Recent collections including those edited by Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann, Jan Eckel and Samuel Moyn, have opened up new lines of inquiry exposing not only the contingency of these ideas, but also the conflicts amongst those claiming the mantle of universal human rights. On this blog in recent weeks, Fabian Klose has examined the important role of decolonization and post-colonial states in shaping the development of human rights politics, and Robert Brier has interrogated the idea of human rights as a product of neo-liberalism in the context of the Polish opposition. Here, I want to look beyond the human rights campaigns of dissident Eastern Europeans to that of the states they fought against.

                        Stamp 1

One of a number of East German postage stamps commemorating International Human Rights Year 1968. The hammer and anvil represent the right to work.

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