Human Rights Without Cultural Imperialism

“Human Rights without Cultural Imperialism,” Perspectives on Libraries as Institutions of Human Rights and Social Justice, Paul Jaeger, editor. Emerald Publishing., 2016: 265-286.

27 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2017

Date Written: March 30, 2015

Abstract

When it is suggested that Library and Information Science (LIS) researchers and professionals concerned with social justice should adopt the framework of human rights one concern is frequently voiced. Many are concerned that human rights is a western concept that imposes a form of cultural imperialism on other cultures (Pollis & Schwab, 2006). This is a serious charge, given that respect for and recognition of cultural diversity is central to most conceptions of social justice (Young, 2011) and is a “fundamental value” of the library profession (ALA, 2015). This chapter argues that, while human rights may be applied in ways that culturally imperialistic, they need not be. Indeed, human rights, when properly understood, provide a framework for respecting diverse worldviews. Drawing on the work of philosopher Jacques Maritain (1949) as well as contemporary human rights theory, an understanding of human rights as pluralistic and evolving practical principles is developed. Using Maritain’s conception of human rights as a set of common principles of action, the paper concludes with some suggestions for applying human rights in ways that avoid cultural imperialism.

Keywords: human rights, cultural imperialism, library science, social justice

Suggested Citation

Mathiesen, Kay, Human Rights Without Cultural Imperialism (March 30, 2015). “Human Rights without Cultural Imperialism,” Perspectives on Libraries as Institutions of Human Rights and Social Justice, Paul Jaeger, editor. Emerald Publishing., 2016: 265-286., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2943742

Kay Mathiesen (Contact Author)

Kay Mathiesen ( email )

Boston, MA
United States

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