chapter  1
22 Pages

Introduction: Human rights research and the social sciences


In the past few decades, the academic study of human rights has expanded in scope, so that what was once the almost exclusive domain of legal scholars and political philosophers has increasingly come to engage scholars from a wide variety of disciplines, including political science, sociology, anthropology, economics, history, and psychology. The contributions from these disciplines, which are as yet uneven across the social sciences, now make up a substantial body of social scientific research on human rights that both complements and builds upon the extensive scholarship in law and philosophy. The latter have sustained a long-standing interest in human rights, furnishing us on the one hand with countless studies of the legal landscapes of international human rights law and its implementation architecture, and on the other with philosophical explorations on the nature, foundations, and normative function of rights. While, however, we are well attuned to the particular contributions of law and political philosophy to the study of human rights, it is less clear what characterises the social science literature. This volume seeks to demonstrate through its collection of essays the rich contribution that social scientists make to the study of human rights.