Cover of When Misfortune Becomes Injustice by Alicia Ely Yamin
When Misfortune Becomes Injustice
Evolving Human Rights Struggles for Health and Social Equality
Alicia Ely Yamin


312 pages.
from $26.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503605411
Paperback ISBN: 9781503611306
Ebook ISBN: 9781503611313

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When Misfortune Becomes Injustice surveys the progress and challenges in deploying human rights to advance health and social equality over recent decades, with a focus on women's health and rights. Yamin weaves together theory and firsthand experience in a compelling narrative of how evolving legal norms, empirical knowledge, and development paradigms have interacted in the realization of health rights.

When Misfortune Becomes Injustice reveals extraordinary progress in recognizing health-related claims as legal rights and understanding the policy implications of doing so over the last few decades. Yet Yamin challenges us to consider why these advances have failed to produce greater equality within and between nations, and how the human rights praxis must now urgently address threats to social and gender justice, in health and beyond.

About the author

Alicia Ely Yamin has spent half of her professional career working outside the United States, with and through local organizations. She currently leads the Global Health and Rights Project, a collaboration of the Petrie-Flom Center on Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics at Harvard Law School and the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator at Harvard University. Yamin is known globally for her pioneering scholarship and advocacy in relation to economic and social rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the right to health.

"In When Misfortune Becomes Injustice, Yamin draws on years of practical field experience to speak with unique authority among human rights scholars about the global and national dynamics that systematically produce poverty and health inequalities across the world."

—Paul E. Farmer, Harvard University

"In this reflective work drawing on her journey as a scholar and activist for health and human rights, Yamin makes a compelling case for why the praxis of human rights—human rights for social change—must be rethought to meet the challenges of hyper-globalization in the twenty-first century."

—Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, The New School

"From her vantage point as a closely involved advocate, Alicia Ely Yamin skillfully and insightfully critiques the evolving struggles to achieve health and social equality. A highly readable and compelling account of the prospects and pitfalls for promoting social justice in these troubled times."

—Philip Alston, New York University School of Law

"Yamin demonstrates optimism in her use of human rights as not only a legal tool but an aspirational norm. By celebrating both pluralistic diversity and common humanity, she provides an important model of analysis and inspiration, particularly in times of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and global calls for racial justice. Recommended."


"It is impossible not to marvel at [Yamin's] skill at weaving together a book that is theoretically rich while also... a very personal plea that we recognize and respect the dignity and humanity of the world's most vulnerable and marginalized people: women and girls."

—Tsitsi B. Masvawure, Humanity & Society