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Overcoming Eurocentrism in Human Rights: Postcolonial Critiques – Islamic Answers?

Sebastian Bonnet

Abstract

Human rights are a contested concept. One important strand of criticism concerns the charge of their Eurocentrism, formulated in particular by postcolonial theorists and scholars. Although postcolonial perspectives are now increasingly acknowledged, attempts to incorporate non-Western approaches into the discourse on human rights are still rare. This article considers whether Islamic human rights concepts can address the postcolonial critiques and decenter human rights discourse and politics from the West. Working within the methodological framework of comparative political thought, the article regards Islamic approaches not simply as counter-discourses but analyzes their potential to supplement the dominant theory and practice of human rights and correct some of its inherent flaws. Informed by the critical analysis of Makau Mutua and Gayatri C. Spivak, the primary focus is on alternatives to the liberal individualist framework of human rights as evident in the concept of the autonomous individual subject of rights, and the balancing of individual rights with ethics and notions of responsibility in particular.

Acknowledgements

For helpful comments I would like to thank Jonathan Buckner, Hasret Cincik, Masar Haziri, Miriam Schlasza, Dorothea Schoppek and an anonymous reviewer.

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Published Online: 2015-7-10
Published in Print: 2015-6-1

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