Assuming that human rights advocacy still largely hales from the West, Jack Donnelly asserts that it would gain additional legitimacy by recognizing the differences between Western cultures and others. Advocating “special caution and sensitivity,” he calls for “relative universality.” Other scholars advocate similar views. At the same time Donnelly agrees with the new anthropological insight about the “deeply contested” nature of cultures in the global South, as elsewhere, that in my view makes the recognition of the cultural differences across North-South axis almost impossible. How could Western advocates decide which of the fractions in a given contested culture should be nominated for culturally-sensitive considerations to arrive at “relative universality?” A significant section of his theory explains how universalism can be relativized in “interpretation” and “implementation.” I contend that scholars, exploring the notion of “tempered” universality, should focus on the violating nation-states and posit their theories on the corpus of the available documentations and analyses. Hypothetical examples without references to specific human rights reports cannot be practically useful for monitoring and advocacy.


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