Imagining a World Without the Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Location: C103 Hesburgh Center for International Studies


Zachary Elkins

Associate professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin

The classic rights documents are iconic statements of claims by which a community articulates its fundamental values. These documents – such as Magna Carta, the US Bill of Rights, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) – represent major junctures in the history of human rights. They seem to consolidate ideas and shape subsequent thinking. Or so some think. Some historians and legal scholars have been much more skeptical of these claims. This talk explores a varied set of historical data in order to understand the allegedly disruptive power of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Zachary Elkins is associate professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin. His research focuses on issues of democracy, institutional reform, research methods, and national identity, with an emphasis on Latin American cases. Currently completing the book manuscript that examines the design and diffusion of democratic institutions in developing democracies, he is the author of the award-winning The Endurance of National Constitutions (Cambridge University Press, 2009), among other works. Elkins codirects both the Comparative Constitutions Project, an NSF-funded initiative to understand the causes and consequences of constitutional choices, and, a website that provides resources and analysis for constitutional drafters in new democracies. He holds a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.


Co-sponsored by:

  • The Kellogg Institute for International Studies
  • The Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.