Felix A. Jiménez Botta | The Central American insurgencies and the Human Rights Culture War in the Federal Republic of Germany, 1979 –1990

Sponsor(s): Institute of European Studies, Center for German and European Studies, German Historical Institute Washington | Pacific Office Berkeley 

Did the human rights movement shun social justice and ignore the rise of neoliberalism in the 1970s–1980s? Using the example of human rights advocacy towards Central America in West Germany, this talk will explore conflicting visions of human rights in the 1980s, and explain why a market-conforming human rights movement emerged victorious by the end of the decade. Left-wing activists mobilized human rights rhetoric to support the Salvadoran guerrilla movement and the Sandinista state because they promised liberation and social justice. Market-friendly human rights activists challenged the left. They privileged negative freedoms, attacked social justice, and vilified the redistributive state and armed liberation movements. Leftist solidarity with armed liberation movements and their perceived indifference towards its victims undermined their moral stance. Market-friendly activists won the human rights culture war of the 1980s by associating their foes with insurgent violence, state socialism, and insouciance towards state-perpetrated human rights abuses.

Felix A. Jiménez Botta is Associate Professor of History at Miyazaki International University, Japan, and earned his Ph.D. from Boston College. He is currently completing his first book manuscript, entitled Moral Choices and Market Forces: Latin America Solidarity and the Politics of Human Rights in West Germany, 1973–1990, under contract with Cambridge University Press. The manuscript examines the contradictory uses of human rights in the advocacy campaigns towards in Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. He is also currently editing a special issue entitled The Multiple Meanings of Human Rights in Germany with the Journal of Contemporary History, which will appear this year. His work has appeared in the Journal of Contemporary History, Journal of Transatlantic Studies, Zeithistorische Forschungen, Contemporary European History, and Sports in Society.


If you require an accommodation for effective communication (ASL interpreting/CART captioning, alternative media formats, etc.) or information about campus mobility access features in order to fully participate in this event, please contact Ray Savord at rsavord@berkeley.edu or (510) 642-4555 with as much advance notice as possible and at least 7-10 days before the event.

Speaker: Felix A. Jiménez Botta, Associate Professor of History, Miyazaki International College
Moderator: Akasemi Newsome, Associate Director, Institute of European Studies