Many contemporary social movements in Latin America base their political projects upon a critique of colonialism or coloniality, and point to the problem of racism that lies at the core of human rights thinking. This article further develops these critiques by discussing two important antecedents to contemporary human rights thinking. The first concerns the construction of the hierarchical category ‘human’ during the conquest and colonization of America. The second concerns the ways in which a particular construction of race crystallized and played a pivotal role in the social struggles of racialized subjects in Latin America during independence and republic building. These struggles ensured that an idea of racial equality was incorporated into the legal frameworks of the newly independent Latin American countries. However, the inclusion of this idea in the legal bases of these new republics was, at the same time, used to cover over the struggles of the racialized subjects that brought them into being in the first place. This article highlights the ongoing importance of these points to contemporary human rights thinking.
Journal of Critical Globalisation Studies, 2013, Issue 6, p. 78-102