Christopher N.J. Roberts is an associate professor of law and an affiliated faculty member of the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. He brings an interdisciplinary law, sociology, and public policy perspective to human rights, international law, and legal history.
His recent book, The Contentious History of the International Bill of Human Rights (Cambridge University Press), was awarded the 2015 Gordon Hirabayashi Human Rights Book Award from the American Sociological Association’s Human Rights Section. The book focuses on the substantial and often-overlooked opposition against the formation of the International Bill of Human Rights during the 1940s and 1950s. Because this opposition was absorbed into the framework of the emerging concept, he argues that for more than 60 years human rights have been encumbered by “internal contradictions” that continue to constrain implementation.
Roberts is currently working on his second book, which takes the unusual approach of searching for the historical origins of an absence. Although every legally enforceable right relies upon a corresponding legal duty, the book shows that duties have become an afterthought in contemporary rights theory and practice. This project locates the crucial historical moments when duties were separated from the modern idea of rights and explores the impact of this now-accepted division.
Roberts holds a JD from the University of Southern California and a PhD in Public Policy and Sociology from the University of Michigan, where he received the Distinguished Dissertation Award. He was a visiting scholar in the Center for the Study of Law and Society at the University of California Berkeley School of Law, Boalt Hall, in 2008-10.
Professor Roberts’ research interests include human rights, citizenship, tort law, international law, legal history, legal and social theory, law and society, and the process of legal concept formation.