Book Presentation: Business & Human Rights in an Unequal World: A Genealogy

Michelle Staggs Kelsall – SOAS University of London

Thursday, 16 February 18:00 – 20:00 CET, Raum LG (0.423) FAU Nürnberg

and Zoom

ID: 670 6549 7005

How can we understand the turn toward Business & Human Rights at the start of the new millennium? Why did this field of academic inquiry, policy development and legal practice emerge in the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2008? And how might Business & Human Rights yet change how lawyers theorize and practice international human rights law in the twenty-first century?

These are the questions that remain at the heart of Business & Human Rights in an Unequal World: A Genealogy. Drawing upon fifty years of United Nations archives, the book tells the story of ongoing attempts by scholars, civil servaots and activists to radicalize states’ responses to inequality in the international legal order by re-casting the corporation as a vehicle of social change. The book argues that the field of Business & Human Rights has flourished by giving rise to a legal sensibility it calls ’embedded pragmatism’. While pragmatism retains some of the radical sentiments of past attempts at redressing inequality through regulating corporate conduct, it fixates jurists’ attention on the ‘art of the possible’.

This has the effect of maintaining the central dynamics of existing corporate processes and results in the field providing a response to human rights abuse that is presentist, crisis-responsive, and based upon a theory of change that is incremental. The book then proposes a new theory of embedded intersectionality. In so doing, it invites scholars, lawyers and activists to re-think the parameters of Business & Human Rights by attenuating to human rights abuse in a manner that is historically situated, proactive, and responsive to change that is increasingly exponential.

Dr. Kelsall will discuss the central argument of her work, explaining how pragmatism became the animating feature of Business & Human Rights and drawing upon case studies of exponential change to illustrate her theory.

Bio: About the Author

Dr. Michelle Staggs Kelsall is a Senior Lecturer in Law and Co-Director of the Centre for Human Rights Law at SOAS University of London. She came to SOAS with over a decade of experience conducting applied research in West Africa and Southeast Asia, for multiple research centres, and working for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights where she obtained a respected reputation as an authoritative expert on human rights in the Asia-Pacific region. Law and Law in Context.

Dr. Kelsall is also the Co-Founder of ATLAS (Acting Together: Law, Advice, Support) a global network of 8.500 international lawyers committed to empowering, supporting and connecting women pursuing careers in international law.

Her forthcoming book will be published with Oxford University Press in 2023.