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LGD 2007 (1) - Editorial

Editorial: Upen Baxi – A Celebration!

Abdul Paliwala
Professor of Law,
School of Law,
University of Warwick, UK

This is an editorial published on 6 December 2007.

Citation: Paliwala, A, ‘Upen Baxi – A Celebration!’, 2007 (1) Law, Social Justice & Global Development Journal <>

Upen Baxi – A Celebration!

This issue is a celebration of Upendra Baxi’s life and work! We started the celebrations with the conference on Human Rights and Global Justice which was organised last year with support from the Warwick School of Law and the Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation at Warwick. This volume consists mainly of revised versions of many of the papers delivered at the Conference. Other papers delivered at the conference also constitute a special appendix to this volume. We are equally delighted at the response of scholars and activists to the idea of a Festschrift. We believe that these papers constitute a compendium of exciting scholarship on the idea of Human Rights and Global Justice. While they are not in general specifically about Upen’s work, they represent significant works of scholarship in an areas to which Upen has made significant contributions.

I would like to express my special thanks to Celine Tan as a collaborator in both the conference organisation and the publication of this volume and to Masha Baraza and Paul Trimmer as collaborators in this publication.

Apart from the wealth of scholarship represented in this volume, we have had such an impressive response from those who wished to be included that we plan to continue this celebration with a second volume. So please contact us if you wish to include a scholarly article, an activist response or wish to make a comment on Upen’s life work.

I do not intend to go into details of Upen’ s life. We include a brief bio-data. More significantly, these find their place quite aptly in the pantheon of Four Southern Voices as described by William Twining in this volume. We also proudly present Upen’s homage to Julius Stone, one of his mentors. This piece not only signifies the intellectual debt owed to Stone, it also gives us the opportunity for a differentiation. Upen rightly writes in praise of Stone as a scholar and in particular justifies Stone’s assiduous referencing as a Talmudic intertextual episteme signifying respect for the “Fellowship of Juristic Knowledges”. Upen’s own work shows equal respect for the “Fellowship”. In particular, his analysis of Amartya Sen on Human Rights in Chapter 2 of Human Rights in a Posthuman World (Baxi 2007) indicates that nature and level of respect which can only arise from the gifting of rigorous criticism. However, Upen transcends Stone in a number of ways. Firstly Upen’s Fellowship is a panhistorical global one. His work will give as much if not more credit to the Southern voices of Gandhi, Ambedkar and Samir Amin, the feminist voices of Nussbaum, Haraway, Fraser and Spivak, as to the modern socialist voices of Gramsci and Marx, the postmodernity of Foucault and Derrida and the ancient voices of the Koran, Upanishad or St Paul.

Nevertheless, it is driven, as Twining indicates so well, by the “Voices of Suffering” Such voices find their articulation in ‘subversive’ ‘subaltern discourses’. As an activist and an intellectual, Upen occupies a special position in the articulation of voices of suffering, being involved both in the ‘subversion’ and its intellectual rationalisation. As he makes it abundantly clear in his latest book on Human Rights in a Posthuman World (Baxi 2007), there is no artificial dichotomy or hierarchy between activism and intellectual articulation (ch 1). Secondly, suffering is neither an exclusive privilege of the South or of humanity (ch 6). Suffering arises from oppression and voices of suffering are an articulation of suffering wherever and to whoever it occurs and, in this respect, posthumanity is just another space where suffering may occur.

A description of Upen as a scholar activist is incomplete. Warwick students continue to appreciate that he brings the same unstinting approach to bear on his teaching as to his scholarly activist work. The “Fellowship of Juristic Knowledges” is democratic in extending as much to students as to highbrow scholars. If this means for students immersion in whatever is inspiring him at the time, including some of the most difficult texts, and students will readily cite Agamben’s Homo Sacer among others, in the end they appreciate inspirational learning. Myself and other colleagues at Warwick have benefitted from the same democratic Fellowship.

Finally, for Upen, Fellowships are sustained by more than sharing of intellectual discourses and activist engagement. They involve human and posthuman engagement at all levels, whether in the sharing of humour, poetry, cricket or the most exciting dishes resplendent with the hottest chillies!


Baxi, Upendra 2007. Human Rights in a Posthuman World. OUP, New Delhi.