This is the World: Have Faith

13 Pages Posted: 29 Feb 2008 Last revised: 1 Dec 2017


In recent critically inclined texts on human rights, we find a desire to acknowledge the cultural specificity of the human rights regime, to consider the colonial origins of international law and to take account of the putative axiom of globalization. This trilogy is often accompanied by an asserted faith (however vestigial) in the human rights regime. In this essay, the author explores the paradox of such a convergence, asking whether such texts (and the one at hand in particular) are unintentionally performing the question which marks the zeitgeist - that is whether human rights law can ever be anything other than imperializing. To the extent that any sensitization of human rights to its history and context involves a project of 'refounding' them - no matter how 'diverse' the foundation - it would seem that the answer is no. Arguably such projects remain ensnared in the modern oscillation between the myth of universality on one hand and the nihilism of cultural relativism on the other, ironically forgoing consideration of the relationality of being implied by that very oscillation.

Suggested Citation

Pahuja, Sundhya, This is the World: Have Faith. European Journal of International Law, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 381-393, 2004. Available at SSRN:

Sundhya Pahuja (Contact Author)

Melbourne Law School ( email )

University of Melbourne
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010
+61 3 8344 7102 (Phone)

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