Gepubliceerd op 22-06-2013

Beyond Merchant and Missionary – Samuel Moyn and the quest for a holistic history of Human Rights 1945-present


Beyond Merchant and Missionary

Samuel Moyn and the quest for a holistic history of Human Rights, 1945-present.

Koninklijke Bibliotheek Den Haag
30 september 2013

In the last couple of years, in the United States, many books have been published on the post-War history of Human Rights. Especially Samuel Moyn’s contribution has made some challenging points. The modern concept of human rights, he says, differs radically from older claims of rights, like those that arose out of the French Revolution. According to Moyn, human rights in their current form can be traced not to the Enlightenment, nor to the humanitarian impulses of the 19th century nor to the impact of the Holocaust after World War II. Instead, he sees them as dating from the 1970s, exemplified by the efforts of the Carter presidency to make human rights a pillar of United States foreign policy and the Helsinki Accords.

Whereas Moyn focuses mainly on the United States, the situation on the other side of the Atlantic – in self-proclaimed Human Rights pioneering country the Netherlands in particular – might be different and perhaps even more interesting. Here, Moyns analysis raises new questions on the recent history of the Human Rights debate in the Netherlands that are interesting not only to scholars that are directly involved with the topic, but even more to those who are working on the history of social movements, politics and religion fore in all these fields the need for the Netherlands to be an international pioneer on the topic was heavily discussed.

However, in the Netherlands, Human Rights is a very specialized field that consists of mostly lawyers, and a handful of anthropologists and International Relations scholars. Especially the latter group has focused extensively on the history of Human Rights, but mainly on one aspect; the response of the Dutch government to violations by other countries; the truth and untruth of the so-called Dutch international pioneering or missionary role. What is missing so far is a more comprehensive and interdisciplinary narrative including elements of political history and social movements, memory, intellectual history, economics and (legal) philosophy. What is furthermore lacking is a clear focus on the European Union reality the Netherlands is living in. Samuel Moyn’s contributions and questions are a reason, and a framework for the revitalization of the study of the history of Human Rights.

With this conference we are making way for a new, comprehensive and interdisciplinary analysis of Human Rights history (1945-2013). We are bringing together different disciplines, but also renowned academics and talented young professionals. We intend to trigger those who study Human Rights to ask new questions and those who are working in a in an adjacent field to include the concept of Human Rights and the ideas of the Human Rights movement, and to face legal-philosophical complexity in their analysis.

We are honored to announce that Samuel Moyn of Columbia University (New York City) will deliver the opening (key-note) speech of the conference. Professor Moyn works primarily on modern European intellectual history–with special interests in France and Germany, political and legal thought, historical and critical theory, and Jewish studies – and on the history of human rights.

The Conference is organized by Dr. Maarten van den Bos (IKV-Pax Christi) and René Rouwette (Utrecht University/Netherlands Institute of Human Rights SIM) on behalf of the Royal Netherlands Historical Society (KNHG) with the support of the School of Human Rights Research.

The entrance fee (including coffee, thee, lunch and drinks afterwards is €10,- for students and members of the KNHG, non-membesr pay € 20,-. The amount can be wired to 6934391 t.n.v. KNHG. Den Haag.

Registration and further information: info@knhg.nl or +31(0)70 314 0363.

Preliminary program:

09.00 – 09.30 am  Welcome and coffee

09.30 – 09.35 am  Opening by James C. Kennedy (University of Amsterdam)

09.35 – 10.00 am  Keynote by Samuel Moyn (Columbia University)  

10.00 – 10.15 am  Short first response by Rene Rouwette (Utrecht University)

10.15 – 10.30 am  Time for discussion

10.30 – 10.45 am  Coffee break

10.45 – 12.15 am  Panel I: Inventing Human Rights (Chair: Siep Stuurman, Utrecht University), Boyd van Dijk (Maastricht University); Mart Rutjes (University of Amsterdam); Jan Eckel (Freiburg University)

12.15 – 13.15 pm  Lunch break

13.15 – 14.45 pm  Panel II: Competing Universalisms, Political Contestation and Consensus (Chair: Cees Flinterman, Utrecht University), Barbara Oomen (Roosvelt Acadamy); Paul van Trigt (Free University); Peter Malcontent (Utrecht University)

14.45 – 15.15 pm  Tea break

15.15 – 16.45 pm  Panel III: Individual contribution and memory (Chair: Beatrice de Graaf, Leiden University), Nicole Immler (Utrecht University; Maarten van den Bos (IKV Pax Christi); Guno Jones (Free University)

16.45-17.00 pm  Closing remarks by Eduard Nazarski (Amnesty International)

17.00 pm  Drinks

Het KNHG is de grootste organisatie van professionele historici in Nederland. Het biedt een platform aan de ruim 1100 leden en aan de historische gemeenschap als geheel. Word lid van het KNHG.
Het Huygens Instituut beoogt de Nederlandse geschiedenis en cultuur inclusiever maken. Het ontsluit historische bronnen en literaire teksten en ontwikkelt innovatieve methoden, tools en duurzame digitale infrastructuur.