://bsc.cid.harvard.edu/doing-development-differently . 8 An international research initiative run by the Development Learning Programme based at the
University of Birmingham. See: www.dlprog.org/research/thinking-and-working-politically-community-of-practice.php . 9 By the same token, elites must have super-brains. 10 Since the mid 2000s, there has been a growing number of computer games and software
programmes that claim to allow interested parties to experience what it is like to be a refugee
or subject to a disaster. The Darfur content on Google Layers, for example, was an early
This book argues for greater openness in the ways we approach human rights and international rights promotion, and in so doing brings some new understanding to old debates. Starting with the realities of abuse rather than the liberal architecture of rights, it casts human rights as a language for probing the political dimensions of suffering. Seen in this context, the predominant Western models of right generate a substantial but also problematic and not always emancipatory array of practices. These models are far from answering the questions about the nature of political community that are raised by the systemic infliction of suffering. Rather than a simple message from ‘us’ to ‘them’, then, rights promotion is a long and difficult conversation about the relationship between political organisations and suffering. Three case studies are explored: the Tiananmen Square massacre, East Timor's violent modern history and the circumstances of indigenous Australians. The purpose of these discussions is not to elaborate on a new theory of rights, but to work towards rights practices that are more responsive to the spectrum of injury that we inflict and endure.
notions of human rights draw indirectly or directly on some of our most deeply embedded presumptions and reference-points – for those of us in liberal democracies, particularly those cosmologies concerning the nature of the person and of politicalcommunity. Questions about and concepts of the human as individual, of what is right, the state, justice, freedom, equality, and so on, flicker like a constellation of stars just off the edge of our fields of analysis – fading in and out, holding much, promising or claimed as anchorage, yet elusive and obscure. For many, the
‘universal’ and ‘relative’, and are often called in to support one side or the other. The peculiar intensity of the dichotomy, however, may derive from quite different and more limited roots in particular historical, political and conceptual accretions – shaped in the kind of dense layering that Michel Foucault’s work, most famously, has studied. It is this fundamental imbrication with the dominant constitution of politicalcommunity that guarantees the argument between the two terms such embedded and knotted obduracy. Here this layered history can only be suggested
by the state (or the majority) on the individual’s proper exercise of his or her freedoms and interests. Thus rights protect both the individual from incursions by the state and the individual’s interests in the context of the state. This way of conceptualising human rights has been fundamental to the evolution and the project of the modern free-market liberal democratic state. It has provided a remarkably powerful framework for the characterisation of both the individual and politicalcommunity and for the identification of abuse. Moreover it has to a significant
‘answer’ to the ‘question’ of East Timor was independent statehood, and indeed Indonesia’s violence probably left no other answer available. Effective self-determination, however, and effective international understanding of and response to East Timor’s evolving circumstances may be anything but simple. Answers to questions around how to build a reasonably peaceful political order that East Timor’s circumstances pose for its own population and leadership, and for others, may be fundamental to how we understand politicalcommunity.
Thus, rather than being primarily an evangelical task of ‘truth-bearing’, or an assertion of the inevitable ‘rightness’ of a particular model of government, the promotion of human rights may demand long-term engagement with particular institutions or knots of social practice – with mechanisms for constructing community – across and between cultures. Response to abuse is part of a long and slow conversation between and across cultures on the nature of politicalcommunity and the place of injury within it. In practical terms, efforts to change violent or injurious
fit his idealized principles of legal equality and merit.
Honneth's dismissal of the politics of cultural
difference has consequences for his international thought. By taking
the existence of firmly established states for granted, he
underestimates how some multicultural struggles call into question
the very identity and even the boundaries of the politicalcommunity
procedures and values more or less in play in most other zones of contemporary Australian society. But it can also be approached as a product of those procedures, practices and values. These two approaches are in complex tension with each other. The way we weigh patterns of politically generated suffering, so that generations of Aboriginal ill-health and early death, often from violence, seem so extraordinarily less grave than the killings in Tiananmen Square, is itself in part informed by a Lockean language of self-possessed individuality, politicalcommunity and
The politics of identity
In the international system, membership
of a politicalcommunity has traditionally been institutionalised spatially
within territorial states (Krasner 1988 ). Foreign policy follows as a consequence of a
politicalcommunity being recognised as a sovereign state and is thus an
essential confirmation of its identity by other sovereign actors. Wallace (1991 : 65) has called this the