The Nonreligious/Secular Comfort Zone of Human Rights Reconsidered

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:45
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Haimo SCHULZ MEINEN, Institute of Sociology, Germany
Law, modernity and religion are merged. Brent Nongbri's “Before Religion” (2013) and Daniel Dubuisson's “The Western Construction of Religion” (2003) only are added to an old but growing stream of heretic sociology of religion. However, together with Decolonial theory in the 21st century we can even reach to a critical inquiry of human rights that pretend to strip the Western concept of nationhood of particularism. Nicola Perugini and Neve Gordon reveal the core as the “Human Right to Dominate” (2015) stemming on the allies' attempt to enhance the status of nation states in the aftermath of World War II. Annihilating competing animal and humane populations or cultural systems, human-rights-driven cultures safeguard the elites' wealth, necessary working specialization and workers mobility. They exclude the majority of the others, claiming and violently defending national territories, also by brain drain towards the wealthier spheres. Human rights thus work as a trojan horse, states decolonial theory. “But what do we mean when we decide to embrace the quest to decolonize human rights?”, asks 2013 José-Manuel Barreto in the introduction of the collection he edited, entitled: “Human Rights from a Third World Perspective: Critique, History and International Law”. He defines “Decolonial Theory”: “The conventional conception of modernity needs to be revisited to accommodate the legacy of modern imperialism, the conquest and colonization of the world – a vast enterprise of domination marshaled through wars of aggression, genocides, slavery, plunder and exploitation.” (Barreto 2013, 2f.) Twelve years earlier, Kenyan originated US-law-professor Makau Mutua questioned in Harvard International Law Journal “the universality and cultural neutrality of the human rights project”, containing “a subtext which depicts an epochal contest pitting savages, on the one hand, against victims and saviors, on the other.” (Mutua 2001, 201) The paper will reconsider the comfort zone of human rights as presumably nonreligious.