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Reconciling Universality and Particularity through a Cosmopolitan Outlook on Human Rights
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education.
2012 (English)In: Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, ISSN 1837-5391, Vol. 4, no 2, 22-37 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Human rights are today criticized as not compatible with different cultural values and the debate has circulated around Asian values and Islamic values as in dichotomy with human rights as universal ethics (Ignatieff, 2003). The theoretical dichotomy between universality and particularity is questioned pragmatically in this paper through a historical study. The working process of drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1946-48, which included thousands of people, is explored as a cosmopolitan space in which individuals from different cultural contexts met to negotiate human rights through cultural narratives. The process where particular values were negotiated with universal notion on human rights resulted in a common proclamation (UDHR) without a common philosophical or ideological ground. This paper puts forth a thesis that human rights discourse can work as a cosmopolitan space, in which particular value systems meet in processes characterized by conflict and cohesion. Hence human rights can be understood as a master narrative compatible with different conflicting cultural narratives (Gibson & Somers, 1994).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 4, no 2, 22-37 p.
Keyword [en]
Universality, cosmopolitanism, human rights, particularity
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-83835DOI: 10.5130/ccs.v4i2.2346OAI: diva2:577143
Available from: 2012-12-14 Created: 2012-12-14 Last updated: 2014-12-03Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Human Rights Learning: The Significance of Narratives, Relationality and Uniqueness
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Human Rights Learning: The Significance of Narratives, Relationality and Uniqueness
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Whereas educational policy is mainly concerned with the content of Human Rights Education (HRE), philosophers of education have widely explored the subject and her social condition in terms of social justice education. This thesis draws on philosophers of education in exploring the subject rather than the content of HRE, focusing the study on ontological rather than epistemological aspects of learning. In this thesis learning is explored through narratives, as a relational process of becoming. The turn to narrative is taken against the dominant historical narrative of human rights as a Western project. This turn concerns how claims toward universalism of human rights exclude difference and equally concerns how notions of particularity overshadows the uniqueness in life stories. The concept of uniqueness serves to elucidate the complexity of the subject, not easily reduced into social categorizations, a concept drawn from Adriana Cavarero and Hannah Arendt.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Education, Stockholm University, 2014. 110 p.
Doktorsavhandlingar från Institutionen för pedagogik och didaktik, 28
human rights, narratives, relationality, uniqueness, Hannah Arendt, Adriana Cavarero, Sharon Todd
National Category
Research subject
Educational Science
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-102555 (URN)978-01-7447-886-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-05-30, De Geersalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: In Press; Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2014-05-08 Created: 2014-04-09 Last updated: 2014-10-21Bibliographically approved

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