Human rights in global and colonial contexts: Scandinavia and beyond. 11 – 12 June 2024. Department of History, Lund University


Recent scholarship has questioned the theoretical and doctrinal homogeneity of the concept of "human rights" over time and space, emphasising the need for historical investigations into both the theoretical developments and practical uses of concepts of human rights at specific times and in specific contexts. This workshop revisits the discourses and uses of natural and human rights in the decades around 1800 from the perspective of Scandinavia and its global and colonial contexts. In doing so, the workshop aims to chart avenues for further research for global histories of Scandinavian legal and political thought and its interactions with non-European and indigenous legal and political systems.

The Scandinavian kingdoms of Sweden(-Finland) and Denmark-Norway were engaged in diplomatic, commercial, and colonial endeavours with states and communities across the world, stimulating legal and political thinking on a range of topics, including natural and human rights. The papers at this workshop include both European and non-European thinkers and range from Africa to Sápmi in the far north, and from the Caribbean and the Atlantic to Scandinavia. They investigate the link between theoretical conceptions of natural and human rights and their practical uses in discussions of slavery and abolition from both European and African perspectives, of the civil right and status of Jews and other non-Christians, and in advocating agrarian and political reform.

Venue: LUX:B336

16-17.30 Keynote
SALIHA BELMESSOUS (Oxford): Theoretical and Methodological Challenges in Mapping the Tapestry of Indigenous Legal and Political Systems.

Venue: LUX:B240

9.00-9.15 WELCOME

9.15-10:45 Session 1
Johan OLSTHOORN (Amsterdam): Cugoano on Natural Rights, Human Dignity, and Human Bondage.

Mads L. JENSEN (Lund): Human Rights and the legitimation of Danish Empire.

10:45-12:15 Session 2
Markus HANSEN (Lund): Natural Law and Agrarian Reform in 18th Century Denmark.

Simen HEGDALSTRAND (Oslo): Extending equal rights to fellow patriotic citizens of a foreign ‘Asiatic cast’.

12:15-13:30 LUNCH

13:30-15:00 Session 3
Joachim ÖSTLUND (Lund): Nordic and Moroccan perspectives on rights and slavery.

Andreas HELLERSTEDT (Sundsvall): Dominium eminens over Sápmi: Natural law and colonial
expansion in Northern Sweden ca 1740–1800.

15:00-15:15 COFFEE

15:15-16:45 Session 4
Carl WILÉN (Lund/Paris): Human Rights and Movement Texts in the history of the Haitian

Romain CUTTAT (Genève): Saint-Barthélemy and King Gustav III: The Ambivalent Use of
Modern Natural Law.

16:45-17:00 Conclusion & Goodbye
Organisation: Joachim Östlund and Mads L. Jensen.

Attendance is open for those interested. But as there is a limited number of spaces, we ask
that you notify Mads L. Jensen ( before 4 June.

The workshop is funded by seed money from the “Profile Area Human Rights” at Lund
University and the European Union.