In this article, I argue that individuals could be entitled to rights, outside those that are communally conferred, as part of the primary requirement of being ‘persons’ in the African communitarian set-up if the terms ‘person’ and ‘personhood’ are understood differently from the way they are currently deployed in the communitarian discourse. The distinction between these two terms is the basis of my thesis where clarity on their meanings could be helpful in establishing the possibility of ascribing rights outside those that are communally conferred. I argue that ontologically, a ‘person’ is prior to ‘personhood’ (understood in the normative sense) which is considered to find its fuller expression in a community and by virtue of this, I think that he or she is entitled to some rights outside those that are defined and conferred by the community. This is my point of departure in this article.
In classical African communitarianism, individual rights have tended to be accorded a secondary status to the good of the community. What is prioritised are the duties and obligations the individual has to the whole as opposed to the entitlements one can expect to derive from a community qua individual. I seek to show that this view, by its own standards and assumptions, is erroneous in framing rights as secondary to the good of the community. I attempt to show that individual rights are an inherent component of classical African communitarian accounts. Further, I seek to argue for a non-communalist view of African communitarianism which takes into full account the multiple factors that constitute modern African communities. Such a view, I suggest, will avoid the unnecessary dichotomisation of rights which has become synonymous with the classical African communitarian account.
Towards a Compatibilist View
That human rights are new, alien, and incompatible with African social and political reality is pervasive in much of African social and political thinking. This supposition is based on the assumption that African societies are inherently communitarian, and hence inconsiderate to the guaranteeing and safeguarding of individual human rights. However, I seek to dispel this essentialist notion in African social and political thinking. I consider how the human rights discourse could be reasonably understood in the African traditional context if the thinking that is salient in the African communitarian view of existence is properly understood. After considering the way in which human rights are guaranteed within an African communitarian framework, I give reasons why the quest for individualistic human rights in Afro-communitarian society could be considered to be an oxymoron. Overall, I seek to establish that an Afro-communitarian model is compatible with the quest for the universality of human rights.
In her 1938 essay Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf questioned the meaning of patriotism and national belonging for British women who, because of their gender, were denied equal access to education, property, the professions, and the political world. As the growing possibility of war amplified the calls for national unity, Woolf suggested that such patriotic sentiment was illogical for women, as they played no role in the public life of the nation.
What Type of Freedom is at Stake?
Danielle Celermajer and Dalia Nassar
concern about the dangers that government measures to combat the virus pose to individual rights and democratic institutions ( Amnesty 2020 ; Owen 2020 ; Eliadis 2020 ; Freedom House 2020 ). Thus, a dominant frame that has been brought to the normative
Citizenship and environment-as-common-property in highland Peru
Mattias Borg Rasmussen
collectivities, different rights, and therefore different notions of authority and the legitimacy of claims points back to contradictory ideas of what constitutes citizenship. There is a great friction between the linkage of individual rights and national growth
Feminism and Nationalism in Romania, 1880-1918
This essay explores feminism's relations with nationalism and liberalism by examining specifically how feminists in late-nineteenth-century Romania understood citizenship and how they articulated views about women's empowerment starting from specific assumptions about individual rights and responsibilities in the community (as regulated by the state through citizenship). This perspective enables me to explain the eagerness of many feminist activists to work within the dominant paternalist/patriarchal context not as a paradox, but rather as an outgrowth of locally grounded, powerful contexts that worked together to afford specific choices to women struggling against patriarchy. In the case I discuss below feminists understood women's empowerment in terms of validating and increasing women's civic duties and responsibilities, rather than struggling for individual rights. These arguments built upon a well-established, albeit not clearly articulated, concept of republican citizenship, and reconstructed it most often in the language of nationalism (frequently ethno-nationalism), which had wide currency in Romania in the late nineteenth century.
Local Knowledge and Universal Claims
In Vanuatu, where the revival of kastom (custom) has been pivotal in defining postcolonial identity, articulations of feminism(s) are offen met with ambivalence. The tension between discourses of individual rights and collective obligations and the tension between universal ideas of women's rights and local cultural practices such as kastom must be confronted. An engaged feminist anthropology, I argue, resists singular accounts of modernity by locating local knowledge and kastomary practices within a larger context that unsettles the boundaries of local and universal. Disentangling the ways in which contemporary critiques of kastom resonate with missionary and colonial representations of Melanesian violence and drawing attention to the structural violence of everyday life are also important tasks. Invoking the concepts of 'modest witness' and 'situated knowledge', I discuss what Strathern (1987) has called the 'awkward relationship' between anthropology and feminism and consider the possibilities of an engaged feminist anthropology.
Daniel M. Goldstein, Gloria Achá, Eric Hinojosa, and Theo Roncken
Vigilante violence has become a common practice of creating 'security' in the marginal barrios that surround the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Surprisingly, this violence and the human rights violations it entails are appearing simultaneously with the expansion of civil society in Bolivia. This apparent contradiction, it is argued here, suggests that analysts must expand their definition of 'civil society' to include violent social groups and actors as well as peaceful ones. This article suggests that a fuller understanding of the nature of civil society in Bolivia and other Latin American countries requires us to broaden our understanding of what civil society includes, and so recognize that some acts originating in civil society may restrict rather than deepen and expand individual rights in neo-liberal democracies.
The transnational construction of indigenous and human rights among Vietnam's Central Highlanders
In the context of the conflict-ridden relationship with the Vietnamese state and the growing transnational interference by their vociferous diaspora, this paper analyzes particular shifts in the framing of their rights. A notion of collective group rights that are by definition particularistic and exclusive has given way to individual rights (especially religious freedom) that are universal and inclusive. Simultaneously, a localized and communal emphasis has changed to a transnational one oriented toward international fora. Local interests and aspirations thus come to be framed as universal human rights that pertain to individuals, rather than local rights that pertain to collectives. In this light, recent attempts to theorize minority or indigenous rights appear to be ineffective and will probably be counter-productive.