Working at the Borders of Liberalism

Geraldine Pratt

in Working Feminism

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9780748615698
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671243 | DOI:
Working at the Borders of Liberalism

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This chapter examines how the Philippine Women's Centre deploys the language of rights in practice. It traces how certain boundaries naturalise domestic workers' unequal access to rights and considers whether rights discourse is itself a flawed and limited resource that throws responsibility for social inequality onto individuals and deepens the regulatory reach of the state. A close study of the Philippine Women's Centre's nimble use of rights discourse suggests the limits of a purely theoretical critique of rights. Four spatial arguments about rights are advanced: we inhabit multiple spaces and multiple discourses and this allows important room for manoeuvre; human rights is itself a fragmented discourse that has emerged from and is deployed in particular ways in specific geographical contexts; geographical scale can be exploited in productive ways; and universal rights are an ‘empty space’ that can be used to reveal exclusions and acquire concrete rights.

Keywords: Human rights; individual and collective rights; geographical scale; migrant workers; liberalism; bodily integrity

Chapter.  11401 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Sociology

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