Peter A Allard School of Law

The 2024 Walter S. Owen Lecture: The Politics of 'Faith' and Human Rights

Event Description

The Politics of 'Faith' and Human Rights critically examines the relationship between faith and secular human rights. The dominant view is that human rights operate outside of religion, they are secular, and free from religious justification. Hence, human rights are best suited to the task of dealing with religion and bringing societies mired in religion into the space of rational thought and modernity. This view is being challenged in emerging critiques of international law and decided human rights cases on religious practices, which demonstrate how, historically, secular human rights and faith/religion have been indelibly intertwined and conditioned one another. The analysis has significant implications for understandings of secularism and faith as well as human rights advocacy and scholarship. In particular, it prompts a series of challenging questions: What is the work that faith does in progressive, secular human rights advocacy and critical scholarship? How does a ‘secular’ position reproduce the us and them/civilized and uncivilized/global south and global north divides? What new labour of thought or scholarship is required to be undertaken once the orthodoxies and exclusions present in secular human rights have been exposed?

*This event qualifies for 1 hour of CPD credit.

Please register by April 6th for in person registration.

In Person Registration Zoom Registration


Ratna Kapur

Ratna Kapur has taught and published extensively on issues of human rights, with a particular focus on gender, and the rights of sexual and religious minorities. She brings a critical theoretical approach to her scholarship and research endeavors that draw on the tradition of Third World Approaches to Human Rights (TWAIL), feminist legal theory and Postcolonial theory. Her current research focus is on the politics of faith/religion in international human rights law.

About the LectureThe Walter S. Owen Chair in Law, the first endowed chair at the law school, was established in honour of The Hon. Walter S. Owen, O.C., Q.C., LL.D., K. St., one of Vancouver's most prominent lawyers, businessmen and philanthropists. Among his many services to the legal profession and the public, he was President of the Canadian Bar Association (1958-59), Treasurer of the Law Society of British Columbia (1964-65), and Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia (1973-78). He died in 1980, and the campaign to fund the Walter S. Owen Chair, which was already underway at that time, culminated in the formal establishment of the Chair in 1982.

The Walter S. Owen Lecture is a public expression by the Visiting Professor who holds the Chair, of the Faculty's wish to commemorate Mr. Owen, and to thank those whose contributions enabled the Chair to be endowed.

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