Public Lecture by Babara J. Keys – Københavns Universitet

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28. maj 2014

Public Lecture by Babara J. Keys

Reclaiming American Virtue: The human rights revolution of the 1970s

Wednesday 28 may, from 14:30-16:15

Danish Institute for Human Rights, Wilders Plads 8k, 1403 Copenhagen K, Nordskov meeting room (3rd floor)

The American commitment to international human rights emerged in the 1970s not as a logical outgrowth of American idealism but as a surprising response to national trauma. Reclaiming American Virtue situates this novel enthusiasm as a reaction to the profound challenge of the Vietnam War and its tumultuous aftermath. Instead of looking inward for renewal, Americans on the right and the left alike looked outward for ways to restore America’s moral leadership. Conservatives took up the language of Soviet dissidents to resuscitate a Cold War narrative that pitted a virtuous United States against the evils of communism. Liberals sought moral cleansing by dissociating the United States from foreign malefactors, spotlighting abuses such as torture in Chile, South Korea, and other right-wing allies.

Both liberals and conservatives saw human rights as a way of moving from guilt to pride. Less a critique of American power than a rehabilitation of it, human rights functioned for Americans as a sleight of hand that occluded from view much of America’s recent past and confined the lessons of Vietnam to narrow parameters. It would be a small step from world’s judge to world’s policeman, and American intervention in the name of human rights would be a cause both liberals and conservatives could embrace.


14:30 Welcome and Introduction

14:40 Reclaiming American Virtue: The Human Rights Revolution of the 1970s
Barbara J. Keys, Senior Lecturer, University of Melbourne

15:25 Comments
Rasmus Søndergaard, PhD Fellow, University of Southern Denmark 
Steven L. B. Jensen, Researcher, The Danish Institute for Human Rights 

15:40 Q&A - Debate

The seminar is open to all. However, due to limited space registration is necessary. Please send an e-mail to Steven L. B. Jensen, no later than 26 May, 2014

The event is co-organized by The Danish Institute for Human Rights, and the Saxo-Institute (History), University of Copenhagen.

Barbara J. Keys
- is Senior Lecturer in American and International History at the University of Melbourne. She holds a PhD from Harvard University. Her new book, Reclaiming American Virtue: The Human Rights Revolution of the 1970s (Harvard University Press, 2014) offers an explanation of the origins of the human rights “boom” of the 1970s in the United States. Barbara's research interests are broadly in the areas of human rights, the effects of transnational movements and organizations on international affairs, the role of emotions in history, intercultural relations, and globalization.

She is currently writing a book on anti-torture campaigns since the end of the Second World War and their effects on global human rights movements. Her first book, the prize-winning Globalizing Sport: National Rivalry and International Community in the 1930s (Harvard University Press, 2006), was a transnational study of the emergence of international sports competitions as a significant political and cultural force in the 1930s. She has written several articles on sports in the Cold War.