Humanitarianism in the age of human rights : Amnesty International in Australia

Book chapter


Piccini, Jon. (2022). Humanitarianism in the age of human rights : Amnesty International in Australia. In In Damousi, Joy, Burnard, Trevor and Lester, Alan (Ed.). Humanitarianism, empire and transnationalism, 1760-1995 : Selective humanity in the Anglophone world pp. 305-326 Manchester University Press. https://doi.org/10.7765/9781526159564.00021
AuthorsPiccini, Jon
EditorsDamousi, Joy, Burnard, Trevor and Lester, Alan
Abstract

This chapter places Samuel Moyn's influential argument, that the post-war ascendance of human rights saw it subordinated to a humanitarian optic, into dialogue with a study of Amnesty International’s early years in Australia. Founded in 1961 by London-based lawyer and Catholic convert Peter Benenson, AI quickly found a receptive audience in Australia, with ‘sections’ emerging in cities across the nation. Through exploring two of the group’s early campaigns – that Indigenous Australians and conscientious objectors to the Vietnam War be recognised as ‘prisoners of conscience’ by the group’s London-based headquarters – I identify how two different understandings of rights coexisted within the organisation during this period. One was maximalist and humanitarian: insisting that rights inhering in the person irrespective of the state, while the other was minimalist and closer to a traditional understanding of rights as emerging from citizenship and imposing duties onto a subject. Such schisms were also tied into some of the central debates on human rights during the ‘long 1960s’: particularly the competition for supremacy between collective and individual rights at an international level. The chapter concludes by tracing Amnesty International’s Australian history through to the so-called human rights explosion of the late 1970s, revealing how its ‘human rights proceduralism’ frustrated those motivated by an older, often religiously inspired humanitarian sensibility, providing insights that shed light on the group’s neglected global history.

Page range305-326
Year2022
Book titleHumanitarianism, empire and transnationalism, 1760-1995 : Selective humanity in the Anglophone world
PublisherManchester University Press
Place of publicationManchester, United Kingdom
SeriesStudies in imperialism
ISBN9781526159557
9781526159564
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.7765/9781526159564.00021
Publisher's version
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All rights reserved
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Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online01 Mar 2022
Print2022
Publication process dates
Deposited18 May 2022
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