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Law & Ethics of Human Rights

Editor-in-Chief: Stopler, Gila

Editorial Board: Benvenisti, Eyal / Cohen-Eliya, Moshe / Macedo, Stephen / Rosenblum, Nancy

CiteScore 2018: 0.19

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.118
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.225

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Volume 7, Issue 1


The Rhetoric of Maps: International Law as a Discursive Tool in Visual Arguments

Christine Leuenberger
Published Online: 2013-08-28 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lehr-2013-0002


0Notions of human rights as enshrined in international law have become the “idea of our time”; a “dominant moral narrative by which world politics” is organized; and a powerful “discourse of public persuasion.”0001 With the rise of human rights discourse, we need to ask, how do protagonists make human rights claims? What sort of resources, techniques, and strategies do they use in order to publicize information about human rights abuses and stipulations set out in international law? With the democratization of mapping practices, various individuals, organizations, and governments are increasingly using maps in order to put forth certain social and political claims. This article draws on the sociology of knowledge, science studies, critical cartography, cultural studies, and anthropological studies of law in order to analyze how various international, Palestinian, and Israeli organizations design maps of the West Bank Barrier in accord with assumptions embedded within international law as part of their political and new media activism. Qualitative sociological methods, such as in-depth interviewing, ethnography, and the collection of cartographic material pertaining to the West Bank Barrier, provide the empirical tools to do so. The maps examined here exemplify how universalistic notions of international law and human rights become a powerful rhetorical tool to make various and often incommensurable social and political claims across different maps. At the same time, international human rights law, rather than dictating local mapping practices, becomes inevitably “vernacularized” and combined with local understandings, cultural preferences, and political concerns.

Keywords: human rights; borders; international law; cartography; maps; rhetoric; claims-making; discourse; advocacy; media activism; hybridization; neutrality; politics; culture; Israel; Palestine

About the article

Published Online: 2013-08-28

Citation Information: The Law & Ethics of Human Rights, Volume 7, Issue 1, Pages 73–107, ISSN (Online) 1938-2545, ISSN (Print) 2194-6531, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lehr-2013-0002.

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