Whither the Human in Human Rights?

On Misrecognition, Ontology, and Archives

  • Mario H. Ramirez


Out of an interest in generating a dialogue at the intersections of archives, human rights, and ontology, this article explores the questions of being and agency through human rights archives. Committed to an interdisciplinary approach that locates an interrogation of the constitutively human at the heart of the formation of human rights archives, this article moreover foregrounds the categorical contingency of subjectivity even in ostensibly liberated and communal archival spaces. Focused on the excesses of the “human” or “inhuman” as a necessary disruption in the normative and delimited nature of definitions of being, it aims also to challenge presumptions of belonging and to highlight the visceral impact of violence on material and discursive conceptualizations of the self both within and outside human rights archives.


Dans l’intention de générer un dialogue à l’intersection des archives, des droits de la personne et de l’ontologie, cet article explore les questions de l’être et de l’agentivité à travers les archives de droits de la personne. En plus d’être engagé dans une approche interdisciplinaire qui situe une remise en question du constitutivement humain au coeur de la formation des archives des droits de la personne, cet article place à au premier plan la contingence catégorique de la subjectivité, même dans des lieux d’archives apparemment libérés et communautaires. Ciblant les excès de « l’humain » ou de « l’inhumain » en tant que nécessaire perturbation de la nature balisée et normative des définitions de l’être, il vise également à contester les présomptions d’appartenance et à souligner l’impact viscéral de la violence sur les conceptualisations matérielles et discursives de l’être, tant à l’intérieur qu’à l’extérieur des archives de droits de la personne.

Author Biography

Mario H. Ramirez

Mario H. Ramirez is the Head of Special Collections and Archives at the California State University, Los Angeles. He received a PhD in Information Studies and a Certificate in Experimental Critical Theory from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2017. Previously, he has held appointments as Project Archivist at the Bancroft Library (UC Berkeley) and at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Hunter College, CUNY). From 2018 to 2019, he was a CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. He has occupied several leadership and committee positions in the Society of American Archivists and is currently serving a threeyear term on its governing council. Among his publications are “On ‘Monstrous’ Subjects and Human Rights Documentation” (Emerging Trends in Archival Science), “‘To Suddenly Discover Yourself Existing’: Uncovering the Affective Impact of Community Archives” (with Michelle Caswell and Marika Cifor, American Archivist), and “Being Assumed Not to Be: A Critique of Whiteness as an Archival Imperative” (American Archivist).

How to Cite
Ramirez, Mario H. 2020. “Whither the Human in Human Rights? On Misrecognition, Ontology, and Archives”. Archivaria 90 (November), 44-69. https://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/13755.