In the Waiting Room of Humanity: Rupturing Cosmopolitan Ethics, Revisiting Kant, Refracting (In)Human Rights




Nursoo, Ida

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By asking the question “who is the subject of humanity upon whom human rights are attached?” this thesis poses to cosmopolitan ethics an ontological question of how the being of the human of human rights is formulated. It inquires into the conditions of possibility of the anomaly of the cosmopolitan appeal to a universal right to humanity. This is an anomaly exposed by the aporias of war fought in the name of humanitarianism, dispossession of land as the consequence of an entitlement to hospitality and detention for an “unauthorized” assertion of the right to asylum. The thesis argues that the anomaly of universal human rights can be explained by the diagram of (in)humanity that has, like an abstract machine, circulated alongside the history of cosmopolitanism, constituting humanity as a human-inhuman complex that makes possible its denial. Rather than extending outwards, the boundary that divides inside from outside (human from inhuman) so as to make humanity a more encompassing and inclusive category for its legal-political mobilization, this thesis seeks to make sense of the boundary as a liminal space-time where human and inhuman come into conflict as the (in)human condition underlying the human rights conundrum. I describe this diagram as the “Anthropocentric Waiting Room” in order to designate how it is that humanity can be a condition for which some must wait. My central aim is to advance, in four phases, its theoretical importance to cosmopolitan studies. The first involves rupturing cosmopolitan ethics to highlight the space the (in)human occupies within contemporary discourses of cosmopolitan ethics. The second concerns recovering the archive to give the (in)human a history alongside cosmopolitanism’s humanity. The third engages in revisiting Kantian cosmopolitanism to establish its contribution to the intellectual history of the (in)human via a racist anthropology concerned with the production of the subject “Man” as “citizen of the world.” The fourth returns to the question of human rights through the problem of the anomaly by way of refracting this (in)human presence onto our contemporary dilemma.



cosmopolitanism, humanity, human rights, ethics, Immanuel Kant




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