Wednesday, July 6, 2022
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Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Mexico since 1810



The rule of law is central to the liberal constitutional state and following the  implementation of international Human Rights conventions and instruments and given the recent  tendency to the judicialization of politics, it is increasingly linked to the legitimacy of regimes. The defence of civil and political liberties and social rights in those constitutions and the willingness of governments in the twentieth and twenty first -centuries to lead in the signing of international human rights instruments have not always translated into law or practice domestically. This is apparent in contemporary Mexico as human rights abuses are met with
impunity in a context of escalating violence and civil society groups and international organizations call the government to account to deliver on the rule of law. How have rights discourses been used historically in Mexico in constitutions, laws and political plans forwarded by the political opposition or non-state actors and how have they been linked to political legitimacy and the legitimacy of political action?

Mexican constitutions of the nineteenth and twentieth- centuries were forged in periods of political instability and institutional disarray in which the legitimacy of governments was questioned and political and social actors readily turned to insurrectionary and revolutionary politics, at times calling on the right to insurrection or revolution, to launch political plans, manifestos and proposals for just laws, constitutions, ideas of good government and the protection of the rights of citizens.

This interdisciplinary workshop will explore the effect that constitution-making in periods of revolution and institutional disarray has had on Mexican political culture in terms of how political and social actors from outside and within the government and state institutions engage with the rule of law rights and what this has meant for political legitimacy. It will explore how discourses related to the rule of law, natural, civil, political, cultural or social rights and the way they have been employed by government, members of the political opposition, civil society actors, the clergy, military actors, members of insurrectionary, guerrilla or radical groups. The workshop will look at the development from ideas of natural rights to liberal, civil political and social rights and economic through to cultural rights and ideas of the ‘estado de derecho’. It will analyze the conceptions of rights in constitutions and laws and in petitions and proposals of non-state actors and the interaction between them. The workshop will focus on periods of macro-political change, independence and the early national period, the revolution and the transition to democracy, the post-revolutionary period and the contemporary context.The workshop will address the following questions:

  • How are rights conceived within understandings of democracy, liberalism, corporatism and socialism?
  • Is political legitimacy at any given time grounded in contractual ideas, popular sovereignty or in law and the constitution?
  • What notions of citizenship exist in the different periods?
  • How has the conflict between liberal individualist and corporate communal conceptions of rights played out?
  • How have distinctions between social, political, economic and cultural rights been made in political plans, laws and constitutions?
  • What is the relationship between political instability, revolution, constitution making and rights?
  • What is the relationship between rights, constitutions and state building?
  • What is the relationship between the strength of the state, violence, coercion and rights? What is the relationship between political violence, criminal violence and rights?
  • What is the relationship between federal, state and international law and constitutions in terms of rights and the rule of law?
  • How do social and political actors frame their claims on or against governments? How have various institutions, national and regional governments, the army, the  militia, pueblos, ejidos, NGOs engaged with the discourse of rights? How do governments,  constitutions, laws and the courts engage with social actors? Are the state authorities influenced by civil society actors, their proposals, claims and political plans?
  • How do civil society actors use national government or international human rights law and discourses? In the interactions between government and civil society, do political and social actors use legal or extra-legal means to effect political change or do they work at the margins of the law? How do actors build 
  • networks nationally and internationally?


For further information, please contact Rosie Doyle at


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