Guy Aitchison

Post-Doctoral Researcher, School of Politics and International Relations, University College Dublin

My research background is in political theory with a specialism in human rights, citizenship and social movements. I received my PhD from University College London (UCL) in April 2015. Titled ‘Claiming from below: rights, politics and social movements’, my thesis provides a new perspective on the political nature of rights that explains the distinctive role the concept plays as claims that empower agents with the moral standing to challenge and replace unjust laws, institutions and social practices according to critical ideals. The thesis critically examines existing accounts of rights politics and argues in support of the legitimacy and effectiveness of activist citizenship for the achievement and enforcement of rights on the basis of democratic inclusion, moral innovation and civic education.

Building on my doctoral work, my research project as a Max Weber Fellow will examine the nature and justification of oppositional citizenship, which includes protest, civil disobedience and direct action, through the lens of republican theory. The mainstream of republican theory has thus far been oriented to questions of constitutional design and structure, largely neglecting the significance of unofficial forms of democratic citizenship. Meanwhile, the categories of political action inherited from liberal theory prove unsatisfactory to the task of critical analysis, based as they are on a historically specific paradigm of civil disobedience to protect minority rights from majoritarian neglect. The basic contention underlying my research is that the republican tradition in political theory, with its core ideals of freedom as non-domination, popular sovereignty, and active citizenship, provides a robust normative and conceptual framework to analyse the nature and justification of oppositional citizenship.

I taught and lectured BA courses at King’s College London between 2011 and 2015 (in ‘Introduction to Political Theory’ and ‘Political Theories of Capitalism’) and MA courses at UCL between 2013 and 2015 (in ‘Theoretical Foundations of Human Rights’, ‘Public Ethics’ and ‘International Human Rights Standards and Institutions’).

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