The Centre for Rights and Anti-Colonial Justice

Projects and publications

Ongoing Projects

After Rights? Politics, Ethics, Aesthetics

Convened by Professor Louiza Odysseos and Dr Bal Sokhi-Bulley 

The programme of rolling workshops can be found here (abstracts are available here.) Spaces are limited; if you are interested in attending, please email Louiza Odysseos, and Bal Sokhi-Bulley

Societies and publics in diverse political spaces are today confronted with social and political milieus that are ‘intentionally devoid of everything that a person needs to live’ (Bradley, 2019: 137). Such ‘hostile environments’ form spaces of abandonment, debility and rightlessness, the result of the confluence of ongoing colonial legacies and neoliberal capitalism (El-Enany 2020). We are thus witnessing the coexistence of effective rightlessness, disposability and socio-economic abandonment alongside human rights abundance and expansion (Gundogdu, 2015). These differently manifesting socio-economic and political landscapes, buttressed by the rise of right-wing populism and regressive political formations, have fuelled the concerns of resistance movements and critical rights scholars about the limits and boundaries of struggling through rights. Such concerns include, but are not limited to, consideration of the limitations of rights and indeed of their prospective complicity in producing processes of abandonment, precarity and debility that create effectively rightless subjects (Brown 2004; Sokhi-Bulley 2016; Tronto, 2012). To date, scholarship and social justice activism have questioned the reliance of human rights on restrictive, racialized notions of humanity, rationality and purposive agency, asking whether rights reverberate – historically and philosophically – with the racial and extractive legacies of empire (Gilroy 2019; Tascon and Ife 2008), thereby reinforcing colonial and settler colonial politics of recognition (Coulthard 2014). Questions abound, moreover, about how and whether human rights work, whether rights are enough and whether rights are at an endtimes (Sikkink, 2017; Moyn 2018; Hopgood 2013). Whether, and in what ways, rights function as technologies of governing and managing populations (Sokhi-Bulley 2016; Golder 2015; Kapur 2018), sometimes in conjunction with other assemblages such as ‘debility’ (Puar 2017) or ‘crisis’ (Bhambra 2017). Whether still, contrary to many 20th century expectations, rights may not be the antidote to rightlessness (Odysseos 2015) and may indeed signal the end of imagination (Douzinas 2000) or its curtailment within a ‘neoliberal fishbowl’ (Kapur, 2016). And, whether struggling (through) rights encloses struggles for transformational change within a politics of optimism that secures not only the material and exclusionary status quo but also its pervasive anti-blackness (Warren 2018).

These conjunctures prompt the central questions of this project:

  • Can we, and should we, imagine an ‘after rights’?
  • What comes ‘after rights’?
  • What are the political, ethical and aesthetic/poetic implications of thinking ‘after rights’?

The project and envisioned journal Special Issue will include contributions by critical rights scholars in diverse career stages and disciplinary locations, as well as from a range of theoretical and ethico-political sensibilities. We aim to jointly interrogate both the failings in the promises of liberal conceptions of rights arising from the wide-ranging critiques mentioned above, and also co-produce work with struggles and social formations striving for alternative futures, including radical reimaginations of human rights. Contributors will entwine the analyses of disposability, abandonment and effective rightlessness; that reflect on the polysemic meanings of the after in ‘after rights?’, where ‘after’ takes on a range of meanings as a move beyond, a radical reimagining, and a space of practice and possibility to remake rights otherwise. We want to encourage re-conceptualisations of critique beyond philosophical intervention, as entailing questioning of political engagement, ethical comportment, social poesis, as well as spirituality (Hartman 2019; Foucault, 2001; Hadot, 1995). We envision, in other words, that contributions will stretch the political, ethical, aesthetic / poetic imagination of what plural futures of rights might look like. We invite both theoretical and practice- and/or case-study based contributions offering radical reflections on what ‘after rights’ might come to mean in philosophical and praxeological terms. The papers are thus intended to form a collection of radical interventions that respond to our times and may address wide-ranging issues, such as climate change, Israeli apartheid and the Palestinian calls for freedom, indigenous politics and resurgence, the Farmers Protests in India, the UK’s hostile environment (including issues of deprivation of citizenship, deportation and expulsion), Covid-19 and racial capitalism, as well as Fourth World struggles for material and structural change, amongst others.

Much critical thinking in these directions is currently ongoing and is vital to shaping our understanding of both reimaginations of human rights and reflections on the meaning and possibilities of the ‘after’ outside of juridico-liberal frameworks. Such work has focused rethinking rights in alternative terms, through divergent temporal horizons, exploring enhanced poetic and relational possibilities; resistive practices of self-formation and performativity that would reimagine human rights away from the political and ethical frameworks of a market society (Bhambra 2017; Coulthard 2014; El-Enany, 2020; Gilroy 2019; Golder 2015; Hadot 1995; Haraway 2016; Hopgood 2013; Kapur 2018; Lefebvre 2018; Madhok 2017; McNeilly 2016; Mignolo 2014; Moyn 2018; Odysseos 2015; Puar 2017; Sikkink 2017; Sokhi-Bulley 2016; Tascón and Ife 2008; Tronto 2012; Whyte 2019; Zivi 2012).

Extending and critically interrogating ongoing work, as well as forging new directions, we are exploring, but are not limited to, the following questions:

  • In what ways and with what resources do we imagine possibilities of ‘after rights’?
  • What political, ethical, aesthetic / poetic imaginations could inform what plural futures of rights might look like?
  • What might ‘after rights’ come to mean in philosophical and praxeological terms?
  • Does thinking of ‘after rights’ require of us to unlearn existing forms of praxis and struggle with, over and beyond rights?
  • In what ways does questioning what comes ‘after rights’ refer to alternative forms of political engagement, ethical comportment, social poesis, as well as spirituality?
  • How can we radically reimagine other futures, languages, meanings and praxes of rights in order to respond to the legacies and present conditions of disposability and rightlessness?

This project involves a rolling series of workshops in Autumn 2021 and Spring 2022. Details will be posted on our Activities page

Precarity: Poetic and Aesthetic Explorations

Convened by Professor Louiza Odysseos and Dr Ritu Vij (University of Aberdeen)

This collaborative project aims to offer a critical and reconstructive avenue into thinking about precarity and its cognate and supplemental concepts of disposability and fungibility. This proposed body of work is an attempt to supplement, pluralise and re-orient the scholarly and activist analyses into realities, categories and analytics of ‘precarity’ and ‘precarisation’ – the always-differential governing of populations through precarity – to illuminate, map and seek to intervene into these conditions (Neilson and Rossiter 2008; Lorey 2011; 2015). While IR, IPE and sociology analyses offer a much-needed set of reflections into the post-fordist and post-Keynensian conjunctures of the last decades, which have heightened worker and citizen concerns in the ‘global north’ with conditions of permanent work insecurity and wider citizen uncertainty, they remain caught up in conventional labourist and governance-centric approaches, taking the loss or re-inscription of sovereignty (of state, self, and capital) as their primary object(s) of inquiry and re-establishing work and being-in-secure-work as normative. At the same time, ‘precarity talk’ has rarely considered the post/colonial and slavery specificities of historical and ongoing disposability and fungibility that complicate thinking on ‘precarity’, potentially, if unwittingly, erasing the diverse global experiences of permanent insecurity and obscuring the historical geopolitical and subjective conditions of enslavement and colonialism that enabled Euro-American conditions of work/er security through regimes of extraction, land expropriation and native genocide (Barchiesi 2015; Bhambra and Santos 2017; Bhambra and Holmwood 2018).

It consists of a rolling series of proposed workshops and conference panels, as well as an envisioned special issue, aiming to bring together social science scholars concerned principally with the social, political and economic contexts of precarity, and humanities scholars of poetico-aesthetic interventions and modes of signification into precarity, disposability and fungibility. Acknowledging that poetics is often too narrowly understood to pertain to considerations of the poetic form, and aesthetics to focus on the study of beauty, we encourage a much more expansive understanding of poetics and aesthetics that emphasises their links to ethics/justice, politics and revolutionary change (Césaire 1990), as well as to plural renewals of ‘dissident and dissonant social forms’ (Harris 2018). The workshops, panels and envisioned special issue, therefore, propose to draw on poetic and aesthetic archives and methods produced in the midst of being epistemically known and ontologically constituted as precarious life -- living as precarious (Hartman 2018; 2019). Engaging literature, poetry, films, and art, and poetic-aesthetic practices of sociality, they bring together an inter-disciplinary group of scholars interested in deploying poetic tools, writing and visual strategies to rupture the grammar of representations and perceptions of precarity/ precarious life. In this sense, they take precarity/disposability/fungibility as a site for reimagining life and politics beyond normative sovereignty of self, state and capital. 

Our aim then is to collectively examine poetics and aesthetics as generative sites for resisting, disrupting and subverting causes and manifestations of multiple forms of precarity and disposability; to investigate aesthetic and poetic practices and explorations, including in coproduction with communities and artists; to explore the ways in which such interventions into disposability recuperate the psychic and social lives of the non/post-liberal subject. Contributions to the following and other cognate questions are welcome:

  • What might meditations on the poetics and aesthetics of precarity reveal that is obscured by more straightforward sociological and political examinations of the varied conditions contained within this term?
  • Are there experimental aesthetic forms that we might identify that challenge the limitations of allowable thought?
  • What forms of poetic survival, creative living, subversion and resistance might also become visible in considerations of practices of living, aesthetics of sociality and poetic sedimentations of precarious and disposable populations?
  • In what ways, if any, does a dual focus on poetics and aesthetics of precarity and disposability destabilise the fixity of what can be known about experiences of precarity, that is, disrupting its epistemic contours?
  • What methods are available or need to be developed to access plural poetic-aesthetic interventions of those rendered precarious/disposable? How do these methods escape or avoid violence of visibility and the scholarly gaze?
  • How might a dual focus on poetics and aesthetics of precarity flex the very boundaries of ‘precarity’ as a term within the current, so-called neoliberal, conjuncture beyond Euro-American contemporary determinations by linking this to its lineages in colonialism and enslavement?

The Programme of workshops will be available via our Activities page. Please send queries to: Louiza Odysseos, and Ritu Vij,

Global Soldiers in the Cold War: Making Southern Africa’s Liberation Armies

Funded by the Leverhulme Trust 2020-2022. Prof JoAnn McGregor (Co-I), Dr Justin Pearce (Research Fellow)

A striking effect of the Cold War was the circulation of people, ideas and things across virtually the whole of the globe. Ground-breaking work has traced an abundance of political, social and cultural exchanges, delineating a transnational set of relationships well beyond the poles of East and West. A central aspect of these interactions was military in nature and related to the training of a host of liberation movements. This history of military training has barely been touched upon, but it lies at the heart of understanding a unique set of military genealogies, practices and identities as well as the powerful legacies of these armies for ordinary veterans, military institutions and politics.

During the Cold War, tens of thousands of mostly young men joined liberation movements and took part in military training in sites located in the former USSR and central Europe, in newly independent African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries and in Cuba and China. They encountered diverse military traditions, political ideas and weaponry, alongside a great range of languages and cultures. They often trained (and sometimes fought) in more than one country and mixed with soldiers of other liberation movements and conventional armies. Uniquely complex militaries were formed as a result. In southern Africa, one of the ‘hottest’ regions of Cold War-era conflict, these military networks were essential to the prosecution of liberation struggles whose outcomes would dramatically remake the region.

Our project takes the ‘global soldiers’ of the southern African region and the making of their military cultures as its focus. We will undertake oral historical work with former rank and file soldiers and with military instructors and advisers, both African and those of Cold War allies, as well as collecting memoirs, diaries and photographs. The work will require political sensitivity, a multi-lingual team and building strong relations with veteran associations. It will bring together two important bodies of scholarly work: studies of the ‘global’ Cold War and the transnational histories of liberation movements on the one hand and critical military studies on the other. Connecting these literatures will allow us to pose new questions and develop innovative methodologies and concepts that can be applied to the military formation of other transnational armies, both older and more recent.

Making African Connections from Kent and Sussex Museums: Decolonial Futures for Colonial Collections

Funded by AHRC 2019-2021. Prof JoAnn McGregor (PI), Dr James Baker (Co-I, Digital Humanities Lab), Dr Nicola Stylianou (Research Fellow)

Making African Connections was a two-year research project inspired by calls for the return of African colonial-era collections in UK museums, and by activism over decolonizing British public institutions. It was explicitly envisaged as provisional and experimental. The project aimed to enable initial conversations between regional museums in Sussex and Kent with African institutions, curators and historians, and African/African diaspora interest groups over the interpretation and futures of three African collections. We knew a two-year project led by a British university would fall short of the radical change decolonizing demands. The more pragmatic ambition was conveyed by the title ‘Making African Connections’. We aimed: to render select collections accessible to African publics in the continent and the diaspora via digitization and a project website; to undertake preliminary research and re-interpret the collections in a manner that allowed for multiple perspectives and privileged African voices and views, and; to foster links with African museums, intellectuals and African diaspora interest groups to enable their role in decision-making at the museums.

The project included digitization, temporary displays and an international loan to Botswana. It was based on partnerships between the University of Sussex and four museums (Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, The Royal Engineers Museum, the Powell Cotton Museum, and the Khama III Memorial Museum). Each UK museum worked with African and African diaspora consultants and specialists who provided historical and cultural expertise. Three collections were the specific focus of research: a C19th missionary collection from Botswana, a C19th Sudanese collection originating as military loot; and a 1930s ethnographic collection from the Angola/Namibia borderlands.

Regional museums were the focus of the project because they are usually excluded from national-level debates about decolonising and repatriation/restitution. They face specific opportunities and constraints, and work with specific stakeholders. The project has led to significant change for all museum partners involved.

Visit the project archive

Project report on initial findings and recommendations

Universities of Sanctuary

A small working group is working on a proposal to make Sussex a ‘University of Sanctuary’. The main purpose is to create a ‘culture of welcome for people seeking sanctuary within, and beyond, their campuses’ (with specific commitments by the university). See more here.

TRAFIG  Transnational Figurations of Displacement 

Convened by Nuno Ferreira, Anne-Meike Fechter, Pamela Kea, Russell King, Laura Morosanu

TRAFIG, Transnational Figurations of Displacement, is an EU-funded Horizon 2020 research and innovation project. From 2019 to 2021, 12 partner organisations will investigate long-lasting displacement situations at multiple sites in Asia, Africa and Europe and analyse options to improve displaced people’s lives.

Displacement is normally regarded as a temporary phenomenon. Yet, about 16 million people— more than two thirds of 20.4 million refugees worldwide—have been in exile for long periods of time without prospects of return, resettlement or local integration. The number of internally displaced persons who cannot return is unknown. Both groups find themselves in protracted displacement.

The project aims at generating new knowledge to help develop solutions for protracted displacement that are tailored to the needs and capacities of persons affected by displacement. TRAFIG looks at how transnational and local networks as well as mobility are used as resources by displaced people to manage their everyday lives.

TRAFIG will:

  • provide academic evidence on refugee movements and protracted displacement
  • analyse which conditions could help to improve displaced people’s everyday lives
  • inform policymakers on how to develop solutions to protracted displacement.

If members would like to showcase projects on areas of rights and justice research, please send a brief description and hyperlink to the project site to the Centre’s Co-Director, Prof Louiza Odysseos.


Publication News


Luke Martell's book, Alternative Societies: For a Pluralist Socialism is due to be published Feb 2023

Hana Qugana's chapter, 'Savaging the Sonic: Tupaia, Indigeneity and Commemorative Dissonance’ will feature in Tupaia, Captain Cook and the Voyage of the Endeavour: A Material History, available for pre-order now (for release in December 2022).


Evans, M. (ed.) (2022) Beyond transitional justice: Transformative justice and the state of the field (or non-field). Abingdon: Routledge.



Prentice, R. (2021). ‘Labour Rights from Labour Wrongs? Transnational Compensation and the Spatial Politics of Labour Rights after Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza Garment Factory Collapse.’ Antipode: online first. Presented at a Centre Research Meeting in 2018

Wilson, A. "Everyday Sovereignty in Exile: People, Territory, and Resources among Sahrawi Refugees" in Bryant, R and Reeves, M. eds, The Everyday Lives of Sovereignty: Political Imagination Beyond the State, 2021, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, p. 134-153.


David Jason Karp, 'What is the Responsibility to Respect Human Rights? Reconsidering the "Respect, Protect and Fulfill" Framework', International Theory 12.1 (2020): 83-108

David Jason Karp, 'Fixing Meanings in Global Governance? "Respect" and "Protect" in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights', Global Governance 26.4 (2020): 628-649

Mora, A. 2020. Black Hole State: Human Rights and the Work of Suspension in Post-War Kosovo. Social Anthropology 28(1):83-95


Richard Danbury and Judith Townend  (2019) Can you keep a secret? Legal and technological obstacles to protecting journalistic sources. In: Price, Stuart (ed.) Journalism, power and investigation: global and activist perspectives. Routledge. pp. 95-112. ISBN 9781138743069

Po-Han Lee (2019) Queer Asia’s Body without Organs: In the Making of Queer/Decolonial Politics. In:  Luther, J Daniel and Loh, Jennifer Ung (eds.) Queer Asia: decolonising and reimagining sexuality and gender. Zed Books

Mora, A. 2019. ‘We don’t work for the Serbs, we work for human rights’: Justice and Impartiality in Transitional Kosovo. In Everyday Justice: Law, Ethnography, Injustice. Sandra Brunnegger, ed. Pp. 83-105. Cambridge Studies in Law and Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mora

Louiza Odysseos, 'Stolen Life’s Poetic Revolt’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies 47, no. 3 (2019), 341-372. DOI:10.1177/0305829819860199

Rebecca Prentice (2019), ‘Just Compensation? The Price of Death and Injury after the Rana Plaza Garment Factory Collapse.’ Research in Economic Anthropology, 39: 157-78

Maya Unnithan (2019) Fertility, Health and Reproduction: Re-imagining Rights in India. Routledge


Jason Bosland  and Judith Townend (2018) Open justice, transparency and the media: representing the public interest in the physical and virtual courtroom. Communications Law, 23 (4). pp. 183-202

Lara Montesinos Coleman (2018) Rights in a State of Exception: The Deadly Colonial Ethics of Voluntary Corporate Responsibility for Human RightsOñati Socio-Legal Series 8:4 (2018), forthcoming

Lara Montesinos Coleman (2018) Global Social Fascism: Violence, Law and 21st Century Plunder, Centre for Global Political Economy Working Paper no. 15 (2018)

Louiza Odysseos, 'Towards Critical Pedagogies of the International? Student Resistance, Other-Regardedness and Self-Formation in the Neoliberal University’, International Studies Perspectives 19, no. 1 (February 2018), pp. 1-26 (co-authored with Maïa Pal)  DOI: 10.1093/isp/ekx006

Calls for Workshops and Conferences

To request the listing of a call for papers and participation for an event on the Rights and Justice website, please contact Centre Co-Director Dr. Louiza Odysseos.