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Nasia Hadjigeorgiou

Among the most popular, yet least well-justified assumptions of practitioners and academics alike, is that human rights can always make positive contributions to the building of peace in ethnically divided, post-conflict societies. Any explanations for their disappointing peacebuilding effects in practice have to do, not with human rights per se, but with their non-implementation on the ground. This chapter challenges this assumption by arguing that while non-implementation is a problem that peacebuilders should address, human rights as peacebuilding tools also suffer from two inherent limitations as well. The first concerns the fact that their implementation might protect the individual applicant’s interests while failing to produce any beneficial peacebuilding effects for the society at large. The second limitation arises because even when human rights lead to peace-inducing measures, these always relate to legal and institutional amendments. Their contribution is therefore in itself insufficient because, in addition to such amendments, peace also requires that political, socio-economic and psychological changes take place in the society in question.

Su Fang-Ying

Are human rights universal and are they applicable in different cultures? These sorts of questions have given rise to different arguments that criticise the universality of human rights. At the same time, the particularity of a culture becomes the best excuse to exclude human rights norms. On the other hand, despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reaching a high consensus among countries in 1948, the mechanism for international protection of human rights and monitoring systems of human rights still cannot be immediately understood and taken on board, and sometimes it is still regarded as a sort of cultural imperialism. If these underlying values of human rights that come from a common consensus cannot even be given a voice and interpreted in different cultures, then it is arguable how the universality of human rights can be justified. The aim of this chapter is to yield a general reflection to the claim that human rights come from the West. Through an intercultural approach, the tension between cultural diversity and universal human rights is deconstructed. This chapter is divided into three parts: Firstly, the debate between culture and universal human rights is demonstrated. Secondly, the dispute of Asian Values is rethought. Thirdly, the debate on traditional values at the United Nations is demonstrated. To sum up, culture should not be an obstacle to implement human rights; rather an intercultural perspective should be taken to produce a common understanding. As for how the intercultural approach is implemented, this will be dealt with in another article.

Ti-Han Chang

This chapter applies Giorgio Agamben’s biopolitical analyses of ‘naked life’ and ‘camp’ to the question of des hommes étrangers in Taiwan and France. The concept of ‘naked life’ applies to a person who is excluded from human jurisdictions and reduced to a merely biological existence. Similarly, what Agamben calls ‘camp’ emerges when a determinate order exercises the management of biological life so as to produce a discursive space which either limits or abolishes the subject’s rights. Camp may thus occur in many forms, be it a concentration camp, a detention room in the airport, or the declaration of a state of exception in a country. Therefore, Agamben’s work helps us understand the liminal spaces that hommes étrangers occupy in a global modern society. In the context of the modern nation-state, the mobility and the conditions of these hommes étrangers problematize above all our definitions of space and territory. The chapter thus aims to study how the status of hommes étrangers, which involves elements of both inclusion and exclusion, continuously shapes a suspended space in the nation-state. The key argument is that the contemporary nation-state, empowered with the sovereignty over human life, sees human life as a political construct and attempts to manage it biopolitically in the framework of citizenship (that is to say, as a population of physical and political bodies in need of government). Hence, it is due to this perception of citizenship and the value attached to sovereignty that the hommes étrangers remain perpetually in a peculiar grey-area. Likewise, the chapter will show how the modern nation-state gives rise to legal inequalities that are to the detriment of the foreign population.

Rachelle Bascara

The current trend of asymmetrical migration of mostly female domestic workers from developing countries to wealthier nations is an emblematic intersection of global and gender injustice. I relate theories of global injustice and Susan Okin’s feminist critique of liberal philosophy to the situation of migrant domestic workers. According to Okin, a problem with liberal philosophers is that they refuse to subject the domestic sphere to assessments of justice. Due to its confinement to the home and the history of invisibility of this kind of work, domestic work has a particularly precarious nature, rendering domestic workers especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Using cosmopolitan theories of justice, I show how the interdependence of local economies make it possible to speak of an unjust global economic order, where powerful nations dictate and shape the landscape of global trade and activity. In wealthy, self-identified liberal countries, the entry of affluent women into the traditional labor force created a need for the importation of cheap, migrant domestic labor. The Philippines’ top export is female domestic labor. Many governments that accept migrant domestic workers, including the UK, default on their responsibility to regulate the condition of domestic workers. Migrant domestic workers share an acute form of exploitation in that, unable to find decent jobs in their home countries, they are forced, on pain of destitution, to do invisible, undervalued work in their host countries, where they are prone to more abuse and more exploitation. This phenomenon of migrant domestic workers is a manifestation of the lack of gender progress. I argue that insofar as women who have entered the traditional paid labor force have outsourced their ‘domestic duties’ to women of lesser economic and social standing, claims of gender-advancement are but mere simulacra, or a smokescreen concealing the continuing lack of gender progress within gendered domestic expectations.

Gloria da Cunha

When considering multiculturalism, one cannot but be drawn to focus on Spanish America. Unlike other ethnicities, the identity of its people has continuously evolved, driven by the cultures within their countries as well as the ones they encounter when migrating. In 1959, philosopher Ernesto Mayz Vallenilla described this process ontologically as ‘no-ser-siempre-todavía’ (not-to-be-yet-always). Today, sociologist Zygmunt Bauman would refer to a ‘liquid identity’. These cultural difficulties faced by Spanish Americans throughout history are evident in Spanish American literature. For example, in an 1819 essay describing the most urgent challenges confronting the countries of the region, Simón Bolívar explains that the identity of the Spanish Americans posed a major problem for the new republics because the ambiguity precluded them from belonging to a specific culture needed for union. Later, poets imposed the chosen White and European identity onto the minds of diverse citizenry. Subsequently, Spanish Americans and their literature have struggled to understand, live and represent the array of effects caused by their unusual cultural circumstances. It is not surprise, then, that Spanish American novelists have had great difficulty in recreating an identity that reflects diversity. However, certain novels from the 21st century, including María Rosa Lojo’s Finisterre (2005), Ana Teresa Torres’s Nocturama (2006), and especially Andrés Neuman’s El viajero del siglo (The Traveler of the Century) (2009), grapple successfully with the challenge of constructing Spanish American continuously-changing identity. This study will describe the new narrative strategies of these Spanish American novelists who engage with the issues of mobile identity, and other several unique philosophical notions. In doing so, the study will contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of Spanish Americans, their literature and the dynamics of identity, cultures and belongingness in the ever-globalizing 21st century.


Roberta Medda-Windischer and Patricia Popelier