Preface
in Human rights and the borders of suffering

PREFACE

This book grew out of some years spent living and working in China. There I experienced the complexities, challenges, frustrations and richness of communication, affection and work across differences of various kinds. One does not have to go to other places for such experiences, although it helps. But at moments I also stumbled across what was not really recognisable, despite the threads of similie upon which one draws. (I am not referring here to any acts of abuse, which often seem strangely cross-cultural.) These in a sense shocking moments offered a glimpse not so much of another world as of the vast cloudy constructions of one’s own collective universe.

While in China I worked for the Australian Government. One of my tasks was to regularly raise matters of human rights with officials in relevant Chinese ministries. These were strange encounters in quite a different way, and some time after returning to Australia I decided to reflect on the questions that they raised for me. This book grew, first as a doctoral dissertation, out of those questions. In some ways it is a continuation of conversations with friends, colleagues and interlocutors that took place in China, Australia and elsewhere – it is at least written as an offering in a larger conversation and a moment in a longer exploration.

Many people have contributed to the process of writing this book. I am particularly grateful to Nancy Viviani for her patient and thoughtful reading of drafts and for her encouragement of my work. I would also like to thank Rob Walker, Andrew Linklater and Ann Kent for their much-valued and insightful advice – as well as Roland Bleiker, Pam Christie, Ian Hunter and Peter Jull for their support and comments. Andrew Linklater and Tim Dunne were particularly kind in regard to advice on publishing, while the University of Queensland allowed me the time to complete the manuscript. I thank, too, all the people at Manchester University Press. And many thanks to my partner Richard Llewellyn, for good humour and support beyond the call of duty.

This book is dedicated to the memory of my father Leslie, whose way of being in the world was perhaps an early inspiration for it.

Human rights and the borders of suffering

The promotion of human rights in international politics

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