Some 17 years after the end of the cold war, the international and transnational human rights regimes that emerged in the wake of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights are at a crossroads. On the one hand, the political openings created by the end of the bipolar postwar world have allowed what Eleanor Roosevelt described as the "curious grapevine" of nongovernmental actors to carry ideas and practices associated with universal human rights into different parts of the world as part of broader transnational development activities. On the other hand, this spread of human rights discourse has only magnified the different problems at the heart of human rights, problems that are theoretical, practical, and phenomenological. Anthropology has an important part to play in addressing these problems and in suggesting ways in which human rights can be reframed so that their original purposes, those embodied in documents like the UDHR, stand a better chance of being realized.
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