[Disability] Justice Dictated by the Surfeit of Love: Simone Weil in Nigeria



Onazi O (2017) [Disability] Justice Dictated by the Surfeit of Love: Simone Weil in Nigeria. Law and Critique, 28 (1), pp. 1-22.

How is Nigeria’s failure to fulfil its obligations as a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to be appreciated or even resolved? Answers to this are sought through a seminal criticism of human rights, namely, Simone Weil’s 1942 essay Human Personality. Weil questioned the ability of human rights concepts to cause the powerful to develop the emotional dispositions of empathy for those who suffer. Weil’s insights provide a convincing explanation that the indifference of Nigerian authorities towards the Convention may be accounted for by the weakness of human rights discourse to foster human capacity for empathy and care for those who suffer. Weil’s criticisms will serve as a point of departure for a particular way to circumvent this inadequacy of human rights discourse to achieve disability justice in Nigeria through other means. I argue that Weil, through her concept of attention, grappled with and offers a consciousness of suffering and vulnerability that is not only uncommon to existing juridical human rights approaches, but is achievable through the active participation in the very forms of suffering and vulnerability in which amelioration is sought. To provide empirical content to this argument, I turn to a short-lived initiative of the Nigerian disability movement, which if ethico-politically refined and widely applied, can supply an action-theoretical grounding for and be combined with Weil’s work to elevate agitations for disability justice above human rights to the realm of human obligations.


Law and Critique: Volume 28, Issue 1

Publication date31/03/2017
Publication date online31/07/2016
Date accepted by journal02/05/2016
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media LLC

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Dr Oche Onazi

Dr Oche Onazi

Senior Lecturer in Law, Law