Journal article

The Beginning of Human Rights: The Ritual of the Preamble to Law

Shane Chalmers

Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development | University of Pennsylvania Press | Published : 2018


There is something distinctly ritualistic about the Preamble in international human rights instruments: in its repetitiveness both within and across legal instruments; in its logical ordering of the universe, connecting what has gone before (‘whereas’: human nature, crisis, recognition) with what must follow (‘therefore’: the law, this law); in its very style and representation. This suggests that the Preamble is more than a literally useful passage at the start of the text for lawyers to get to the law, but also something like a rite of passage, a performative calling-forth of ‘what goes before’ so that universal human rights might follow. This paper examines what such a reading of the Prea..

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University of Melbourne Researchers