What is it about?

Since Locke, the concept of person has been closely linked to the idea of a subjective natural right and, later, to the concept of human rights. In this article we attempt to trouble this connection between humanity and personhood. While human rights are intended to offer protection to the “precarious” reality of human embodied life, we hypothesize that the fiction of legal personality generates a dis-embodiment whereby this human life is left exposed and defenseless.

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Why is it important?

Human Rights fail to recognize and support the actual embodied condition of life because the 'legal person' to which human rights are attached is a 'disembodied' person. This article examines the consequence of this failure and proposes an entire novel, original conceptualization of human rights.


Human Rights are in crisis. We examined why and formulated a new approach from a radical new perspective, including a forgotten thinker (Helmut Plessner), and a contemporary writer and activist on race (Ta-Nahesi Coates). We aimed to develop an original perspective on a heavily debated international legal instrument that became ineffective. Human rights should reflect both our actual embodied condition as well as the 'community of life' which sustains this life. We hope our ideas trigger responses from the human rights community and beyond.

Marc De Leeuw

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Human Rights, Legal Personhood and the Impersonality of Embodied Life, Law Culture and the Humanities, June 2019, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/1743872119857068.
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