International Human Rights, Decolonisation and Globalisation: Becoming Human

By Shelly Wright | Go to book overview

7

Emerging images

Mon pays,
ce n'est pas un pays,
c'est l'hiver.

(Gilles Vigneault)


Self-determination of indigenous peoples

The universalising characteristics of Enlightenment thinking deeply affect the content of international law and human rights. Part of this 'monoculturalism' is expressed in the apparent dichotomy between individual and collective or peoples' rights. Freedom of expression and copyright are both normally seen as human rights or legal rights to property that belong to individuals, not groups. The relationship between expression and culture is rarely emphasised. But a tendency towards monoculturalism, and its expression in nationalism, seems to be expanding into a dominant characteristic of modern nation building going beyond its roots in colonialism. Can individual human rights and collective rights such as self-determination work together? As Schachter points out: 'Why should not both the interests of the individual and of the collectivities be protected by rights?' (1991:233). But where there is perceived to be a conflict the requirements of one or the other will generally win out. In Western liberal discourse it is the individual who is privileged. In societies where the community is given greater priority, the requirements of the collective may well override individual claims to rights.

The most significant and best elaborated of a 'peoples'' right is the right to self-determination. The right to control of natural resources, the right to development, and cultural rights more generally can be seen as related to the more fundamental right of a group to determine for itself its own destiny in political, economic and cultural terms. The importance of cultural difference and the protection of diversity are of primary importance to the existence of a right of self-determination. Intellectual and cultural property rights are becoming more and more central in the debate over this pre-eminent collective right. For indigenous peoples or members of ethnic minorities, protection of culture, knowledge and creativity are central concerns. The volatile nature of ethnic conflict since the end of the Cold War may have less to do with age-old confrontations between different cultural or

-134-

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International Human Rights, Decolonisation and Globalisation: Becoming Human
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements x
  • 1 - A Civil Religion 1
  • 2 - White Man's Rights 13
  • 3 - Witches, Slaves and Savages 36
  • 4 - Subjects, Soldiers and Citizens 62
  • 5 - Peoples of the Book 87
  • 6 - Speaking Truth to Power 112
  • 7 - Emerging Images 134
  • 8 - The Death of the Hero 160
  • 9 - Ghosts in the Machine 187
  • 10 - Becoming Human 213
  • Bibliography 227
  • Index 260
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