Date of Submission
Academic Programs and Concentrations
Human Rights; Anthropology
Project Advisor 1
Project Advisor 2
Hannah Arendt's name and ideas are pervasive in Human Rights critical theory. In fact, Arendt is one of the few scholars we can confidently situate within the Human Rights canon in 2017. Contemporary "re-readings" of The Human Condition and The Origins of Totalitarianism tend to appropriate Arendtian ideas in the attempt to create a theoretical basis for universal rights. Nevertheless, Arendt wrote a defense of racial segregation in the American South, and held personal views that contradict most contemporary notions of social justice. In this paper, I take a deconstructive approach to the reactionary assumptions about humanity and justice that Arendt and her disciples inherit and perpetuate from a longstanding liberal tradition. I then analyze the ways Arendtian rhetoric advances reactionary premises resembling those of the American "alt-right," arguing that Arendt's political theory provides a precarious intellectual foundation for any social justice project. In addition to reading Arendt's own texts closely, I also consider more recent interlocutors in Human Rights -- such as Ayten Gündoğdu and Giorgio Agamben -- who appropriate Arendt's theory to advance a universalist project of human rights.
Open Access Agreement
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Lynch, Nicholas Alexander, "When the Canon Backfires: Deconstructing the Centrality of Hannah Arendt to Human Rights Critical Theory" (2017). Senior Projects Spring 2017. 196.
This work is protected by a Creative Commons license. Any use not permitted under that license is prohibited.