Watch What You Say: The Language of Human Rights in Civil Society

Has the language we use to discuss human rights affected the outcomes of critical humanitarian issues? The language of human rights is the dominant language of moral discussions in today’s Western world. Professor James Allan will recount how rights themselves can be understood, setting out the strengths and weaknesses of this approach to understanding political and moral debates and disputes. Using examples including hate speech laws, prisoner voting entitlements and deportation, Professor Allan will consider whether the language of human rights can alter the state’s scope for action.

A native Canadian, James Allan practiced law in Toronto and London before sabbaticals at Cornell Law School and at Dalhousie Law School, the latter as the Bertha Wilson Visiting Professor in Human Rights. His primary areas of research interest are legal philosophy, constitutional law and bills of rights scepticism. He is the author of Sympathy and Antipathy: Essays Legal and Philosophical and A Sceptical Theory of Morality and Law. He is delighted to have moved to a country without a national bill of rights.