Group for Debates in Anthropological Theory

The Ri ght t o Di f ference i s a
Fundament al Human Ri ght
The tenth annual GDAT debate, held in the
University of Manchester on 30th October 1999
Stephen Corry
Richard Wilson
Iris Jean-Klein
John Hutnyk
Edited by Peter Wade
The right to difference is a fundaental huan right
was first published in the UK by
Group for ebates in !nthropolo"ical #heory
epart$ent of Social !nthropolo"y
Uni%ersity of &anchester
'(ford Road
&anchester &)* +,-
. the se%eral contributors/ 0111
IS23 14+5067*64*47
Acknowledgements
#he debate was $ade possible thanks to "enerous financial support fro$ the
!ssociation of Social !nthropolo"ists/ to which G!# is affiliated8 #he
debate took place as part of &anchester 9++/ an international anthropolo"y
conference or"anised by the epart$ent of Social !nthropolo"y of the
Uni%ersity of &anchester8 #hanks are due to the conference or"anisers for
their help8 #hanks also to Rosie Read for actin" as a helper durin" the debate
and to Chris Hadfield for tape transcription8 #he co%er is based on a desi"n by
Ga%in Searle8 #he booklet was printed by &aterialise -td8/ &anchester8
I3#R'UC#I'3
!eter "ade
#he $otion debated in )+++ continued G!#9s atte$pts o%er the last few years to
en"a"e with issues that are of political as well as analytical i$portance8 !s the
ri"hts of $inorities are abused with such "ri$ persistence and people are
discri$inated a"ainst on the basis of their difference:whether of reli"ion/ colour/
cultural %alues or se(ual orientation8:fro$ their persecutors/ how can anthropolo"y
deal with difference/ a notion which/ in so$e sense/ underlies its %ery e(istence as
an enterprise; ! "ut reaction/ and one popular a$on" those of a liberal persuasion/
includin" in $y e(perience $any under"raduates/ is that a ri"ht to difference $ust
be defended8 ! sophisticated %ersion of this position is ar"ued by Stephen Corry in
the debate8 ,eople should be able to practice what they see as ri"ht and proper ways
of life without dan"er of persecution8 Such $oral relati%is$ <uickly runs into trouble
when one en<uires into the abuses and ine<ualities that $ay be entailed #ithin such
=ri"ht and proper9 ways of life> or into the abuses and offences that one set of people
followin" their lifestyle $ay entail for other/ perhaps nei"hbourin"/ people tryin" to
do the sa$e8 So is there so$e underlyin" set of %alues:for e(a$ple/ respect/
di"nity/ e<uality:that can be called upon to ad?udicate in such troubled do$ains;
,erhaps there is/ but how are these %alues to be defined and by who$; &i"ht not
such %alues pro%e to be ethnocentric in the$sel%es;
#he classic dispute between relati%is$ and uni%ersalis$ is not open to easy
resolution/ e%en thou"h/ in this debate/ the audience ca$e down fir$ly a"ainst a
relati%ist e$phasis on difference/ at least when codified as a ri"ht8 In this
introduction/ I will look at so$e of the ar"u$ents for and a"ainst fro$ a $ore or
less chronolo"ical %iewpoint which I hope will clarify the proble$ and put into
conte(t the positions of the proposers and opposers of the $otion8 @irst/ I will
e(a$ine the "eneral <uestion of the %alue of a basic $oral relati%is$ in itself> later/ I
will co$e to the $ore specific <uestion of whether/ if such relati%is$ is ad$itted to
be a worthwhile thin"/ it should be seen as a right/ with all that such a notion
i$plies8 In relation to the first <uestion/ I will start with the idea that anthropolo"y
was built on a basic $oral relati%is$8 I will then e(a$ine the "rowth/ fro$ about the
)+A1s/ of identity politics which celebrated such $oral particularis$8 I will end with
the $ore recent backlash a"ainst such %ersions of difference and the reaffir$ation of
underlyin" %alues of e<uality and hu$an di"nity and ri"hts/ defined without special
reference to difference between $oral orders or cultures8
!"ainst the early social e%olutionists/ $id-century anthropolo"y:I use the
ter$ loosely to include such people as 2oas:had a definite bias towards $oral
relati%is$8 #he ideas and beha%iour of particular peoples could only be understood
in the conte(t of their culture and each culture:assu$in" that such a =thin"9 e(isted
in a si$ple sense:had to be ?ud"ed on its own $erits8 !Bande witchcraft could not
be seen as irrational and unci%ilised/ because it was a way of thinkin" and actin"
that worked in the cultural conte(t of the !Bande8 It $i"ht be less efficient at certain
thin"s than Western science/ but it had its own rationality8 Underlyin" such $oral
relati%is$ was a clear episte$olo"ical uni%ersalis$C anthropolo"y was able to
pro%ide a $ore or less scientific baseline fro$ which to understand and co$pare
different cultures8 #he %alues of a culture could be separated fro$ the facts of their
functionin" structures> different %alue syste$s were ?ust aspects of the %aried ways
hu$ans dealt with the uni%ersal basics of lifeC subsistence/ reproduction/
co$$unicatin"/ renderin" the world intelli"ible and so on8 #his $eant that/ for all
their difference/ cultures were co$$ensurable and could be interpreted and
understood8
#he anthropolo"y of this period has been widely conde$ned as reifyin" and
sacralisin" an essentialist concept of culture/ as an isolated/ bounded entity and/
while there was a clear tendency in this direction:althou"h it was a "reat deal less
ob%ious a$on" diffusionists
)
:the uni%ersalis$ that also underlay the discipline
should not be for"otten when anthropolo"y is berated for ha%in" foisted onto an
innocent world a concept of culture that le"iti$ates $utual inco$prehension
between people and inco$$ensurability of cultures8
#his/ howe%er/ is where the notion of difference see$ed to end up durin" the
ne(t period of its de%elop$ent in Western thou"ht8 Identity politics took off in the
late )+A1s and )+61s/ principally in the US! and Durope but also in their colonies
and neo-colonies8 Hollin"er ar"ues that the i$pact of four intellectual trends $arked
this processC iE #ho$as Kuhn9s The $tructure of $cientific %evolutions F)+61E and
the relati%isation of scientific knowled"e> iiE antiracis$ and the attention to ethnic
$inorities in US society> iiiE fe$inis$/ fro$ early works such as Kate &illet9s
$e&ual !olitics F)+61E to $ore post-structuralist te(ts such as Judith 2utler9s
Gender Trouble F)++1E> i%E @oucault and the post-structuralist focus on the
discursi%e construction of knowled"e and the challen"e to essentialist notions of
identity8 In the US! and elsewhere/ these trends led to an intense concern in $ost of
the hu$anities and social sciences with "ender/ se(ual and ethnic identities and
differences8
0
#his was at the acade$ic/ intellectual le%el/ but there were other forces
dri%in" identity politics as well8 #he dri%e for social e<uality/ abo%e all in a post-
1


See M. Sahlins, “One or two things I know aout culture!, "ournal of the Ro#al
$nthro%ological Institute, &'(), *+++, %%. ,-,.,-&.
2


D.$. Hollinger, “The disci%lines and the identit# deates!, *+/-.*++&, Daedalus *01'*)2
(((.(&*, *++/.
colonial:but also neo-colonial:world/ was funda$ental here8 #he "reat
=!$erican dile$$a9/ which &yrdal had dissected in the )+G1s/ was that the country
which prided itself on its adherence to those @rench Republican ideals of liberty and
e<uality:I9ll lea%e out the e$barrassin"ly andocentric =fraternity9:was also the
ho$e of Ji$ Crow apartheid-like racial se"re"ation and institutional racis$8
*
If such
uni%ersalist clai$s and aspirations could coe(ist with such blatant state
discri$ination/ then what use was uni%ersalis$; If uni%ersalist ideolo"ies of e<uality
of opportunity were leadin" to ob%ious ine<uality of outco$e at the collecti%e le%el
of particular "roups/ then didn9t it $ake sense for those "roups to $obilise
collecti%ely alon" the lines which were the %ery basis of their discri$ination;
ifference was already bein" deployed by the US state here in its least
acceptable for$:the for$ that was %oted out in the debate8 Racial se"re"ation was
le"iti$ated/ as it was in South !frican apartheid/ with the transparent sha$ of a
policy of =separate but e<ual9 de%elop$ent8 !"ainst this/ $any black leaders pre-
)+A1s Fand $any thereafter tooE called for uni%ersalist e<ualityC e<ual ri"hts for all/
black and white8 #his was a powerful platfor$/ yet it also resulted in the
institutionalisation of difference8 #o achie%e e<uality for blacks/ special $easures
were instituted by the state to help the$ Fe8"8/ in the for$ of federal de$ands for
e$ployers to hire "i%en proportions of black peopleE8 !t the sa$e ti$e/ so$e blacks
the$sel%es were increasin"ly usin" difference as a $eans of $obilisin" and
constructin" powerful and $eanin"ful for$s of identity as bases of difference fro$
which to fi"ht for e<uality:howe%er parado(ical that $ay sound8 'ther ar"u$ents
could be deployed/ whether in the US! for racial $inorities or in !ustralia for
!bori"inal land ri"hts/ which also hi"hli"hted difference8 @or e(a$ple/ clai$s could
be $ade for the ri"ht to special treat$ent based on restitution for past wron"s Fsuch
as sla%ery/ institutional racis$/ e(propriation of nati%e landE which had been
suffered by a specific set of people8
#his ended up with the e(plosion of identity politics based on a notion of
difference of the kind that Richard Wilson criticises:but that Iris Jean-Klein/ his
opponent/ also conde$ns8 #here is no doubt that this %ersion of difference entails
$ultiple proble$s8 @irst/ and perhaps politically least i$portant/ but ne%ertheless
critical for anthropolo"y as a discipline/ it leads to an episte$olo"ical relati%is$ of
the kind $id-century anthropolo"y eschewed8 If difference runs so deep/ then/ it can
be ar"ued/ you ha%e to be part of a certain "roup of people in order to be able aE to
ethically study the$> and bE to conceptually understand the$8
G
Such a stance/ with
3


3. M#rdal, $n $merican dilemma2 the 4egro %rolem and modern democrac#, 4ew 5ork,
Har%er and Row, *+10 6*+,,7.
4


$lan Hanson descries how some Maorio intellectuals took this stance8 see, “The making of
the Maori2 culture in9ention and its logic!, $merican $nthro%ologist +*',)2 :+-.+-0. Some radical
currents in $frocentrism also argue along these lines.
its affir$ation of inco$$ensurability/ clearly ne"ates the whole enterprise of
anthropolo"y8 #he distinction between fact and %alue/ which is co$pletely collapsed
by this episte$olo"ical relati%is$/ does not need to be reinstated in its ar"uably
si$plistic $id-century anthropolo"ical for$8 Clearly there are co$ple(
interdependencies between $oral %alues/ theoretical perspecti%es and the
interpretation and e%en perception of =facts9/ but as anthropolo"ists we cannot ad$it
that perception and interpretation are deterined by $oral order8
Second/ this notion of difference is based on nineteenth-century Ro$antic
nationalis$:which/ $any ar"ue/ anthropolo"y $ore or less unwittin"ly took on
board and le"iti$ated
5
:and as such it reproduces =so$e of the worst aspects of the
or"anicist ro$antic conception of identity98
A
It is e(clusi%e and di%isi%e8 It
ho$o"enises and reifies cultures and identities/ $askin" differences within the$8 It
le"iti$ates nationalis$ and racis$8 !s with the fictions of apartheid and Ji$ Crow
about =separate but e<ual9 de%elop$ent/ it can also be hi-?acked by do$inant
powers:not to $ention consu$er capitalis$:to authenticate an official
$ulticulturalis$ which is/ in fact/ oppressi%e/ as were colonial atte$pts to di%ide
and rule Fsee John Hutnyk9s talkE8 !s In"old ar"ued in his inter%ention in the debate/
this is difference seen as di%ersity/ with species di%ersity bein" the underlyin"
$odel8 It is no accident/ I "uess/ that such a $odel e$er"ed in the nineteenth
century when scientific racis$ did indeed see so$e of the difference between
hu$an =types9 as bein" of a species order8 Racis$ and nationalis$ did/ after all/ "o
hand in "lo%e at this ti$e:and the close association has not dissol%ed8
#he backlash a"ainst this di%isi%e/ particularist %ersion of difference/ ar"ued
here by Richard Wilson and John Hutnyk/ restates basic %alues of e<uality and
hu$an di"nity8 2ut here we are back to the dile$$a I first started with8 &i"ht such
%alues not the$sel%es be ethnocentric; Who is to define the nature of e<uality and/
e%en $ore proble$atically/ di"nity; #o use the classic e(a$ple which/ of course/
e$er"ed in this debateC is an infibulated Fcircu$cisedE wo$an necessarily $ade
une<ual or robbed of her di"nity; #he answer see$s to depend on one9s point of
%iew8
#he way forward/ which in $y %iew is actually lar"ely shared by Wilson and
Jean-Klein/ see$s to rest on the notion of disa"ree$ent/ or ne"otiation8 Jean-Klein
%ehe$ently opposes particularist and di%isi%e notions of difference/ but defends
bein" different as an aspect of hu$an sociality:what In"old called difference as
positionality/ bein" located in a different place fro$ others in a web of on"oin"
social relationships> what errida calls diff'rance8 We all ha%e the ri"ht to differ
5


See, for e;am%le, <. =as>uinelli, “The conce%t of culture etween modernit# and
%ostmodernit#!, in 3ras%ing the changing world2 anthro%ological conce%ts in the %ostmodern era,
'ed.) ?. Huinger, @ondon, Routledge, *++1.
6


RaAchman, cited in Hollinger, o%. cit., %. ((/.
fro$ other people8 In this necessarily relational process/ each person can ar"ue his
or her case8 Wilson allies $oral relati%is$ with the possibility of the pra"$atic
ne"otiation of contin"ent and chan"eable consensus8 #hat consensus is not defined
by so$e uni%ersalist authority/ but e$er"es in particular conte(ts8 Het it has so$e
link to basic notions of hu$an di"nity8 #o return to infibulationC the answer $ay
indeed be that it depends on one9s point of %iew/ but thin"s cannot be left at that8 #o
do so assu$es that a =point of %iew9 is:like the %iew of culture held by a defender
of particularist difference:stable and relati%ely ho$o"eneous8 In fact/ points of
%iew on infibulation do not di%ide neatly into =!frican9 %ersus =Western9 or =$en9
%ersus =wo$en9 or so$e such fra$ework> they differ in $ultiple and perhaps
unpredictable ways and they can interact and ar"ue with each other8
#his strikes $e as a useful and producti%e way of "ettin" past the stark
opposition between relati%is$ and uni%ersalis$8 -ike all pra"$atic hu$an solutions
to such co$$andin" social oppositions/ it is $essy and difficult/ but it holds
pro$ise8 We can "et past a si$ple $oral relati%is$ which sees each $oral order or
culture as bounded/ self-definin"/ self-sufficient and abo%e all so%erei"n in the ri"ht
it "i%es its $e$bers to see thin"s their way8 We can also "et past a si$ple $oral
uni%ersalis$ in which so$e 'ly$pian people define what is "ood and bad for
e%eryone8 #hese bare alternati%es are replaced with a %ision of people ar"uin"/
$oral orders interactin"/ fra"$entin" and $ultiplyin"/ indi%iduals and collecti%es
chan"in" their %iews and/ in the process/ perhaps/ so$e a"ree$ent e$er"in" at
particular ti$es/ for particular purposes8 !t the least/ what $ay be defended here is
the basic %alue of people bein" allowed to disa"ree8
In $y %iew/ howe%er/ neither Wilson nor Jean-Klein fully en"a"es with the
proble$ that power ine<ualities pose for such a %iew of co$$unicational consensus
or indeed disa"ree$ent8 Jean-Klein uses the $etaphor of =tu" of war9 to describe
such differences of opinion and their interaction/ but this has a balanced aspect to it
that hardly fits with $any situations in which points of %iew co$e into conflict and
in which one point of %iew clearly has the whip hand8 Wilson finishes with a call to
create =$echanis$s and procedures dedicated to reconcilin" needs9/ needs which
will be different and on which people will disa"ree8 He ad$its that this is a difficult
process based on a flawed %ision/ but/ he says/ it is better than anythin" else8 It is
indeed a difficult process/ if only because/ while people will certainly disa"ree/
so$e are in a $uch better position than others to i$pose their point of %iew8 Hutnyk
is $uch $ore outspoken on power ine<ualities and the weakness of difference as a
basis with which to co$bat the$/ but in his account we are left with little idea of
how to deal with actual differences of point of %iew8
2ut all four speakers clear locate the$sel%es in arenas of stru""le/ defendin"
the ri"hts of people who are oppressed8 #his notion of stru""le:picked up on by
,enny Har%ey in her inter%ention in the debate:needs perhaps to be $ore fully
inte"rated8 #he process of creatin" contin"ent consensus/ or differin" producti%ely
fro$ other people/ is an on"oin" stru""le a"ainst forces which destroy consensus/
create destructi%e disa"ree$ent and institute difference of a di%isi%e nature8 Social
$o%e$ents:I use the ter$ in the widest possible sense:are therefore an inte"ral
part of dealin" with difference in a producti%e way8 It is/ of course/ no accident/ that
it is precisely in the real$ of =social $o%e$ents that all these issues of difference
and di%ision ha%e been $ade powerfully $anifest8
#he second <uestion I set $yself at the start:that of whether difference
should be instituted as a ri"ht/ with all that i$plies about codification and
le"alisation:is now so$ethin" of a appendi(8 #he precedin" discussion $ore or
less answers the <uestion8 If difference is to be the =slippery/ indeter$inate and non-
co$$ittal or"anisin" de%ice9 that Jean-Klein speaks of/ then it is %ery hard to see
how it can/ as she parado(ically su""ests it should/ be =reified in law98 !s Wilson
con%incin"ly ar"ues/ the ossification entailed in institutionalisation and le"al
codification appears to feed precisely the particularist %ersion of difference we want
to a%oid8 Howe%er/ it $ay be that we are operatin" here with an i$po%erished
notion of law8 It $ay be that the law itself is less ri"id and $ore open to fle(ibility
and slipperiness than it appears8 ,erhaps part of the stru""le referred to abo%e
should be to create le"al institutions that do not create the reification and
ho$o"enisation of identities and cultures8
@or e(a$ple/ in 2raBil/ )+77 le"islation to allow land clai$s by the so-called
re$nants of (uilobos Fold runaway sla%e co$$unitiesE effecti%ely "i%es special
ri"hts to so$e blacks:in fact an increasin" nu$ber/ as so$e rural black
co$$unities try to define the$sel%es as old (uilobos8 #his see$ed to in%ol%e the
usual ri"idification of the notion of co$$unity/ since so$e concrete le"al definition
of (uilobo was needed/ based on historical e%idence and such like8 F#his is rather
like the well-known &ashpee case to which Wilson refers in his talk8E It beca$e
clear/ howe%er/ that the way a black co$$unity could establish its status as a
re$nant of a (uilobo would depend on hetero"eneous $eans/ includin" a "ood
$easure of oral history which itself is not a pre-constituted body of knowled"e/ but
so$ethin" that e$er"es in the process of $akin" a land clai$8
6
!rruti co$$ents
that these co$$unities =are not realities which re-e$er"e fro$ the past/ like cultural
artefacts ready to be disco%ered/ $apped and rescued/ but rather are collecti%e
sub?ects which e$er"e in the process of their encounter with conte$porary political
forces98
7
'f course/ such a conception does sit awkwardly with state a"encies/ such
as land refor$ institutes and law courts which like to ha%e ob?ecti%e/ clear criteria
for definin" co$$unities/ but there are indications that e%en these bodies are
7


". M. $ndion $rruti, “<omunidades negras rurais2 entre a memBria e o deseAo!, in
<omunidades negras tradicionais2 afirmaCDo de direitos, s%ecial su%%lement of Tem%o e
=resenCa, no. 0+:, *++:, %%. */.*:.
8


$rruti, o%. cit., %. *&.
a$enable to the $essy definitions of co$$unity which are ine%itable8
In Colo$bia/ a recent Constitutional Court decision which ratified the le"ality
of affir$ati%e action in fa%our of black co$$unities/ used a %ery fle(ible and
anthropolo"ical approach to the definition of co$$unity8 ! black acti%ist/ local
president of the national black ri"hts or"anisation/ had protested that/ since there
was a =black co$$unity9 in the city of Santa &arta/ on Colo$bia9s Caribbean
coast/ a representati%e of this co$$unity should sit on the education co$$ittee of
the local council/ as )++* national le"islation in fa%our of =black co$$unities9
allowed8 #he local council/ supported by re"ional courts and ulti$ately the Supre$e
Court/ denied that Santa &arta had a black co$$unity8 ! re"ional court $ade an
inspection of certain areas of the city and concluded that a black co$$unity did not
e(ist8 It based its decision on a rather essentialist and static notion of co$$unity as
so$ethin" with a clear boundary and a lon"-standin" institutional e(istence8 #he
Constitutional Court took a $ore fle(ible %iew/ in effect acceptin" that a
=co$$unity9 could be fra"$ented and also e$er"ent8 It found in fa%our of the black
acti%ist8
#hese are ad$ittedly $ar"inal e(a$ples which do not represent an o%erall
trend within either 2raBil or Colo$bia8 2ut they do indicate that the law $ay be
open to transfor$ation/ althou"h surely not without a stru""le8 It $ay be self-
defeatin" to si$ply assu$e that by $akin" difference into a ri"ht/ it is necessarily
transfor$ed into a di%isi%e and particularist tool of oppression8
PART 1 T!E PRE"E#TAT$%#"
)or the otion F)E
"TEP!E# &%RR'
#he ri"ht to difference is a funda$ental hu$an ri"ht:pro%ided always that such
difference does not entail the %iolation of anyone9s funda$ental ri"hts8 In other
words/ and broadly speakin"/ peoples/ societies/ should be able to beha%e how they
want to/ so lon" as they don9t hurt anyone8
It see$s to $e that that is statin" the ob%ious8 I9$ afraid that $uch/ $ost/ of
what I propose sayin" here is "oin" to be e<ually ob%ious8 ifferent peoples are as
different as different indi%idualsC no two indi%iduals are e(actly the sa$e/ no two
peoples are e(actly the sa$e8 Where they are alike/ e%en identical/ is in the broad
patterns of their aspirations8 !ll indi%iduals and all peoples seek a certain feelin" of
fulfil$ent/ of control o%er their own destiny/ of e(cite$ent/ ?oy and pleasure and/
$ost i$portantly/ of the ability to transcend the e%eryday:be it throu"h reli"ious
e(perience or "reat football/ fantastic art or fast cars/ or si$ply the ?oint $iracles of
birth and ecstatic se(8 #hese si$ilarities are funda$ental:and they "o $uch deeper
than do the differences between indi%iduals and peoples8
#he skin is our thinnest or"an8 It fulfils only the rather $undane task of
keepin" e%erythin" else to"ether and at the ri"ht te$perature and hu$idity/ but it
also ser%es to differentiate us8 'ur colour $ay be only skin-deep/ but it9s the first
thin" we see8 Skin is pri$ordial in definin" our beauty/ or lack of it8 It points usually
%ery clearly to our "ender/ our a"e and e%en/ for the %ery perspicacious/ our
character8 We $ay stretch it/ pierce it or paint it/ but/ in spite of the plastic
sur"eon9s skill/ it still "i%es the truth away8 So it is with =culture98 It is only skin-
deep but it keeps e%erythin" else to"ether:kinship/ lan"ua"e/ political syste$s/ or
the lack of the$/ artistic traditions/ supernatural beliefs and so on8 =Culture9 $ay
well be only skin-deep/ but without it we are not hu$an8
#hose who seek to eradicate the differences between cultures/ between
peoples/ in reality seek either to $ake e%eryone else $ore like the$/ or si$ply to
kill those who are different/ or to keep the$ in a state of ser%itude or sla%ery8 !ll of
these brin" about the "rossest hu$an ri"hts %iolations known8
#he 3aBis wanted to eradicate the Jews in Durope/ the colonial 2ritish
wanted to $aintain the people of India as low-paid ser%ants and workers/ the !rabs
wanted to ensla%e the Dast !fricans/ the 2antu in%aders of southern !frica wanted
to kill or ensla%e the =2ush$an9 peoples they found there/ ?ust as the Incas did to
the Indians they found li%in" in the low eastern forests of the !ndes/ and so on and
on8 #he %icti$s are always defined in cultural ter$s> they are different and their
difference $akes the$ persecuted8
#hou"h it9s also true that it9s usually been possible to cross the cultural
di%ide8 Jews con%erted to Christianity in 3aBi Ger$any8 =Dducated9 Indians went to
Sandhurst and played polo Fwhich the Dn"lish for"ot actually ca$e fro$ the 2alti
peopleE/ and so on8 #hose who succeeded were <uickly inte"rated into the cultural
syste$s of the in%aders/ often beco$in" e%en $ore like caricatures of their
oppressors that the tyrants the$sel%es were8 3o one ali%e in )+66 can for"et the
Central !frican Republic cere$onies to crown the dictator/ Jean 2okassa/ as
e$peror/ usin" all the e(a""erated trappin"s of a kitsch 3apoleon:the fur-tri$$ed
clothes/ the ?ewel encrusted throne/ the processions of ser%ants and retainersC as
tra"ico$ical a chapter of !frican history as anythin" e%er was or will be8
So/ all peoples are different and you can9t $ake the$ the sa$e without
tra$plin" o%er their ri"hts8 2ut what about that definin" $yth of ci%ilisation and
e$pire:fro$ the Ro$an to the 2ritish:that e%eryone really wants to beco$e ?ust
like us if only they had the chance8 Well/ of course/ the truth is si$ply that they
don9tI !fter nearly one thousand years of Ro$an so-called =ci%ilisation9/ the
reaction of the Goths and then the Jandals in the fifth century was si$ply to wreck
it as soon as they had a chance8 #he Jandals9 le"acy is lar"ely in their na$e and
they ha%e now beco$e e<uated with hooli"ans/ but you $i"ht e<ually well ar"ue
that they were freedo$ fi"hters:3elson &andela the =%andal9/ which is of course
e(actly how he is seen by $any 2oers in South !frica today8 !"ain/ at the risk of
statin" the ob%ious/ it9s ?ust a <uestion of which side you9re co$in" fro$8
Het this idea/ that e%eryone wants =ci%ilisation9 is re$arkably endurin" and so
worth lookin" at in $ore detail8 If you offered a Calcutta or 2o"otK street child a life
in today9s 2ritain/ what would he or she say; -et9s be absolutely clear about this/
the offer is not the $odern 2ritain where o%er four $illion children are li%in" in
po%erty and hun"er/ but that other 2ritain of workin" schools with plenty of "ood
teachers/ hospitals with "ood and rapid treat$ent for disease/ safe and efficient
public transport/ safe public drinkin" water and food/ a fair and helpful police force/
honest and inspirin" political leaders dri%en by real ideolo"y and who scorn the
notion that people should hold top ?obs si$ply because they happen to be their
friends8 Hes/ that 2ritain/ the en%y of the world8 Re$e$ber it; Well/ the street kid
will probably "o for it and who can bla$e hi$ or her; 2ut in practice of course
that9s not what9s on offer8 Health care and education/ a%ailable in $odern India or
Colo$bia is worse e%en than in 2ritain/ the police are e%en $ore corrupt/ the
political leaders are $ore ob%iously crooked/ and when the trains crash they kill
e%en $ore people that they do here8 #he truth is that since colonial days:perhaps
"oin" ri"ht back to those $ost definin" colonialists/ the Ro$ans:the west has
created aspirations to a utopic lifestyle which are si$ply not obtainable by the %ast
$a?ority of those who encounter the$8 Si"ns of this are all around us today and they
affect us as $uch as the old Duropean colonies8 We watch puerile tele%ision "a$e
shows which hold out the pro$ise of uni$a"inable wealth8 We read asinine co$ics
with titles like/ =HelloI9/ which tell us how $uch fun the %ery rich and fa$ous ha%e
Fof course/ they don9t reallyE8 !nd all the ti$e the truth is that the richLpoor di%ide
"rows wider and wider8 #he poor beco$e $ore nu$erous and poorer/ the rich
beco$e richer8 !nd after centuries of so called de$ocracy/ the world9s wealth is
held in e%en fewer hands than durin" the worst e(cesses of the @rench or Russian
aristocracies in the ei"hteenth and nineteenth centuries8
&any people:thou"h by no $eans e%eryone:would ob%iously want to
beco$e rich Duropeans if it was on offer/ but few would choose to beco$e poor
Duropeans in preference to the way they li%e now8
,eople do not all want to beco$e the sa$e8 Corny as it $i"ht sound/ they
%alue their cultures8 #hey "i%e the$ up only after a lon" and often bitter stru""le8
!nd e%en then/ once lost/ "i%en half a chance/ they stri%e to rein%ent the$8 -ike the
3orth !$erican Indians ha%e been doin" for the last *1 years8
Cultures are not static/ they are constantly chan"in" and always ha%e been/
but the idea that they are all "radually con%er"in" towards a kind of hotchpotch of
Hollywood-inspired westernisation is/ in $y %iew/ a profound $istake and a deeply
ethnocentric one at that8 It is part/ in other words/ of the "reat con trick of
ci%ilisation> and it is si$ply not borne out by the facts8 #urkish kids $ay well be
watchin" *ay#atch/ sportin" di"ital watches and silly baseball caps/ but that
doesn9t $ake the$ less #urkish/ any $ore than eatin" potatoes and s$okin"
tobacco $akes us South !$erican Indians/ or usin" "unpowder $akes us Chinese/
or usin" the nu$ber Bero in our $athe$atics $akes us Indian8
Within )1 $inutes walk of the %ery first $ission e%er established in
!$aBonia:o%er G11 years a"o:li%e Indians who still practise a %ery lar"ely/
thou"h not entirely/ traditional way of life/ Indians who still belie%e in the sa$e
stories and the sa$e spirits as their forebears did/ as well as so$e new ones8 #he
$ost re$ote and least contacted peoples of 3ew Guinea still base the $ost
i$portant ele$ent in their cultures around the do$estic pi"/ as they always ha%e
done8888 Han" on/ no/ that9s not ri"htC the pi"s are actually new/ first brou"ht in by
Duropeans only a century or so a"o but <uickly and enthusiastically taken up by
%irtually e%ery tribe in 3ew Guinea8 oes that $ake the people less ,apuan and
$ore like Duropeans; 3o/ it does notI
So/ let9s turn to the second part of our openin" re$arks/ people ha%e the ri"ht
to be different so lon" as it doesn9t hurt anyone else8 Well/ of course/ lots of ways of
life and cultures incorporate cruel practices8 'K/ let9s be blunter and "et strai"ht to
the point8 In $y %iew/ all peoples are barbaric8 #hou"h/ thankfully/ so$e are less
barbaric than others8 #here9s one aspect to this which has lon" struck $e with its
touchin" and beautiful parado(:and I9$ by no $eans the first to notice it:but in
$y e(perience/ the people who are the least cruel/ in $any ways the least barbaric/
are those who are the $ost different to oursel%es/ and who are the least concerned
with $aterial possessions or indi%idual status8
In the process of %isitin" so$e 61 different tribal peoples in the course of the
last *1 years or so/ for $e two stand out for their "entle and unassu$in" nobility:
those sa$e corny %alues our culture clai$s to hold in such hi"h estee$8 'ne is the
no$adic tribe which li%es in the wide "rass plains and "allery forest of the 'rinoco/
straddlin" the Colo$bian-JeneBuelan border/ and which used to be called the
Cui%a8 #hese Indians possess %irtually nothin"8 ! few cookin" pots/ a canoe/ so$e
old clothes/ a huntin" do"/ bows and arrows/ ha$$ocks and the odd basket/ $aybe
a flashli"ht:that9s about it8 #hey don9t ha%e houses8 #he $en hunt/ the wo$en
"ather/ and e%ery few days they $o%e so$ewhere else8 !n anthropolo"ist once
ti$ed the lapse between so$eone/ anyone/ $entionin"/ =Why don9t we $o%e to the
place between the two bends in the ri%er For so$ewhere elseE;9/ and the entire band
of *14G1 people bein" in their canoes with all their possessions8 'n a%era"e/ it took
about four $inutes8 I$a"ine that in the conte(t of the aspirations of ci%ilisation/
where we actually define oursel%es by our possessions/ our wealth/ our status and so
on8 Cui%a society is about the opposite8 #hey are the only South !$erican Indians
I9%e been with where couples share ha$$ocks8 -yin" in you ha$$ock/ chattin"
and cuddlin" your fa$ily is what a Cui%a spends $ost of his or her ti$e doin"/
unless it9s the season of the hallucino"enic tree bark/ when you spend $ost of the
day seein" %isions8
#he other "roup which sprin"s to $ind is the so-called =2ush$en9 of the
central Kalahari8 #hey ha%e about as little as the Cui%aC a donkey or two instead of a
canoe/ thou"h they do ha%e rather co$fortable tent-like houses> no flashli"hts
thou"h/ and no water neither8 o they want to re$ain different to us; Hou bet they
do8 #he $ost i$portant thin" to the$ is their own place8 #o our eyes/ there9s
absolutely nothin" there/ a desert wasteland of endless sand and low scrub8 2ut to
the$ it9s where they belon"/ where their ancestors are buried/ where their roots are8
#hey could ha%e been there for as $uch as an astonishin" *1/111 years/ perhaps
e%en lon"er8
3eedless to say/ both peoples/ Cui%a and 2ush$en/ are worse than harassed
by the surroundin" societyC Spanish colonial in one case/ datin" fro$ so$e three
centuries a"o> 2antu colonial in the second case and datin" fro$ not that $uch
earlier8 Until %ery recently/ both were hunted and killed8 2ush$en today are still
tortured and i$prisoned for huntin" wild $eat8 #he Cui%a ha%e all but disappeared>
$y own personal worry when I was with the$ 05 years a"o was bein" shot at by
cowboys8
ifficult as it $ay be to swallow/ there are literally $illions/ perhaps
hundreds of $illions of people in the world today who do not want to beco$e like
us8 !nd yes/ I know that $any will find it difficult to belie%e and think that $y
position is a lot of ro$antic tosh8 =How could people not want the "reat benefits of
industrialisation;9 #he sa$e <uestion/ underpinned with the sa$e funda$ental
racis$/ will co$e ine%itably fro$ both the ri"ht and left8 Just for the record/ I used
to belie%e it $yself until $y first encounters with tribal peoples8
2ut what about peoples9 barbaris$; Surely we9re not "oin" to allow that in
the twenty-first century; !$aBon Indians do terrible thin"s to new born twinsC they
bury the$ ali%e8 ,robably the Cui%a do this as well/ thou"h I can9t honestly
re$e$ber8 #hey do it for the sa$e reason they paint their facesC to $ake the$sel%es
$ore hu$an/ to distin"uish the$sel%es fro$ ani$als8 ,eople ha%e only one baby at
a ti$e/ ani$als ha%e se%eral8 Dast !frican pastoralists/ like the &aasai/ circu$cise
"irls8 I $ust confess that fe$ale circu$cision "a%e $e a lot of proble$s8 Hes/ it is
terrible8 2ut if you ask a &aasai wo$an why they do it/ she9ll tell you that unless
she9s circu$cised/ she doesn9t feel like a proper wo$an/ a real wo$an8 !nd of
course it9s the wo$en who actually do it to the "irls8 In the &aasai co$$unities I
%isited/ there were no wo$en who wanted it stopped8 !nd/ e%entually/ I found it
%ery difficult to criticise8 ,lease don9t "et $e wron" here8 I repeat that I think it9s
terrible and barbaric8 @or the record/ I think $ale circu$cision is barbaric as well8
2ut let9s not "et too self-ri"hteous o%er this8 !nd althou"h we should not try
to draw the co$parison out too far/ we do put our own adolescents throu"h a
different kind of hell8 !t a ti$e when they9re on the %er"e of findin" out about the
world/ about lo%e/ and about the$sel%es/ at a ti$e when their hor$ones are racin"
and their bodies ha%e for$ed enou"h for the$ to do so$ethin" about it/ do we let
the$ loose to "o and raise Cain/ like the &aasai do when the adolescent boys and
"irls are allowed to "o off and li%e in their own %illa"e where the nor$al rules and
re"ulations of society are suspended; 3o/ at precisely the sa$e ti$e/ we force our
own youn" adults into years of dull but life-definin" e(a$s8 #hose who can9t face
the boredo$ we call =drop-outs98
-et9s put aside the fact that it9s precisely our own so-called ci%ilisation which
lays down the "round rules which ensure that $ost of the world is kept in po%erty8
-et9s for"et that our $onarch sups with the leader of a country where the state
re"ularly co$$its the $ost e(tre$e cruelty/ in its #ibetan colony/ in its prisons/ in
its so-called orphana"es and so on8 -et9s for"et that it9s the I&@ and the World
2ank which i$pose policies which destroy the li%es of $illions:usin" our $oney
to do it8 -et9s for"et that all the so-called $odern wars are fou"ht with weaponry
in%ented and $anufactured by oursel%esC weaponry which $akes the worst torture
$achinery in%ented before this century look like children9s "a$es8 @or"et all of that
for a $o$ent8
2ecause in $y e(perience/ one of the $ost startlin" and sha$in" thin"s I
ha%e e%er had to confess to a tribal people was to describe what we do with our old
folk/ our "randfathers and "rand$others/ the respected elders of our co$$unity8 I9$
not talkin" about other people here/ I9$ talkin" about the fate which will fall to all
of us who ha%e the ="ood fortune9 to li%e that lon"8 #he silent screa$s e$anatin"
fro$ our old people9s ho$es:with their ne"lect/ dirt/ incontinence/ lack of respect
and "eneral staff e(asperation and bullyin":will always "i%e the lie to anyone who
thinks we ha%e created a society which has anythin" worthwhile to teach anyone
else about how people should treat one another8
#he Uni%ersal eclaration of Hu$an Ri"hts is a deeply flawed te(t8 It was
written in the after$ath of the Holocaust/ yet it refers not once to the ri"hts of
peoples/ $erely to indi%iduals8 It defines the ri"ht of the indi%idual to all sorts of
thin"s like holidays and social security which are co$pletely $eanin"less for the
%ast $a?ority of the world9s population8 So what then are funda$ental hu$an
ri"hts; #he ri"ht to be treated with respect/ the ri"ht not to be hurt or killed/ the
ri"ht not to ha%e one9s freedo$ curtailed by others unless perhaps it is for one9s
own safety and in %ery special circu$stances8 #hese should apply as $uch to
peoples as to indi%iduals8 3o one li%es up to the$8 2ut that doesn9t di$inish the$8
#hey are not a code of le"al definitionsC rather they are an ideolo"ical fra$ework
which lay out our aspirations and our hopes8 In that sense/ they are both endurin"
and uni%ersal8 ! Kalahari =2ush$an9/ an !nda$anese Islander/ an !$aBonian
Indian/ all would reco"nise the$8 We ha%e the$ for the sa$e reason that we paint
our faces and ulti$ately for the sa$e reason that an !$aBon $other buries her
twins at birth:because they $ake us hu$an and show us that we are $ore than
ani$als8
3ot only is the ri"ht to be different a funda$ental hu$an ri"ht/ but the %ery
notion that anyone has the ri"ht to foist their own barbarous $odel on other
barbarians is one of the world9s worst tyrannies and has "i%en rise to a su$ of
hu$an sufferin" which probably e(ceeds that of anythin" else in history8
Cultural tolerance is not a load of petty liberal do-"oodis$8 !s our weapons
ha%e beco$e $ore and $ore powerful/ cultural tolerance has beco$e a cornerstone
:the funda$ental cornerstone:of the sur%i%al of hu$an life on this planet8 If we
do not learn this lesson/ and where necessary i$pose it on the youn" thu"s roa$in"
about and lookin" for a punch up/ then we are e%entually conde$nin" oursel%es to
certain hell and probable destruction8 We $ay well all be barbarians/ but we are
also/ all of us/ %icti$s as well8
Against the otion F)E
R$&!ARD W$("%#
-ast week in 2ri"hton/ I saw a bu$per sticker on a yellow/ )+61s JW 2eetle which
read =Celebrate i%ersityI9 on a rainbow back"round8 #his slo"an has beco$e part
of the Beit"eist of post )+A1s tolerance and an article of faith for the socially liberal8
#his senti$ent is found in the state$ent we are debatin" today which ar"ues that
=!ll for$s of life are e<ually "ood and deser%e e<ual ri"hts in law98 #hey are not/
and difference is not a "ood thin" in and of itself8 #o assert otherwise is
characteristic of confused "uilt-ridden ro$antics who think that the e<ual worth of
hu$an bein"s $eans the e<ual worth of their %isions8 It is based upon a flaky
$isunderstandin" of e<uality which belie%es that all ways of life $ust be
enthusiastically endorsed8 #erry Da"leton is correct to rhetorically ask/ what if =I
belon" to the clan known as the SS/ the nation known as 3aBi Ger$any the
profession of porno"rapher;9
+
What the state$ent renounces is ha%in" any
defensible reasons for choosin" between distinct beliefs/ practices and political
syste$s8 @or the pur%eyors of difference/ reasoned criteria for ?ud"e$ent are
Durocentric/ silence the 'ther/ and are the foundations of colonial oppression8
2ehind this public stance is a hidden hypocrisy which is saturated with bad faith8
Instead/ we should re?ect this fake $ulticulturalist har$ony which says that e%ery
e(perience dee$ed authentic $ust be tolerated and incorporated8 #his is/ as I will
ar"ue/ the rhetoric of one %ery flawed 3orth !$erican fin+de+si,cle way of not
dealin" with the "ender/ class and racial di$ensions of social ine<uality8
Instead of the state$ent9s stran"e )++1s co$bination of ro$antic essentialis$
and Hi"h ,essi$is$/ I would e(hort anthropolo"ists and others not to turn fro$ the
unfulfilled pro$ises of $odernity towards a $ythic relati%is$/ a resi"ned
spectatorship and the e<ui%alent of a wreckin" $ission in public life by the constant
institutionalisation of cultural difference8 It is a fatal $istake to slip fro$ writin"
culture to ri"htin" culture8 #here are $ore pressin" a"endas:understandin" the role
of a"ency in political participation/ the role of social $o%e$ents in clai$in" hu$an
ri"hts and the conditions under which contin"ent solidarities e$er"e8 #his would
constitute a political turn in anthropolo"y to correct the cultural turn of the )+71s8 In
effect/ it would $ean an end to the paralysin" "uilt of the Gothic left and the
e$bracin" of a cos$opolitan hu$anitarian a"enda8
&y ob?ections to the proposition do not i$ply a doctrinal defence of ri"hts8
9


T. Eagleton, “Deconstructing human rights!, in The Eagleton reader, 'ed.) S. Regan, O;ford,
Flackwell, *++:.
What follows is not a =keeper of the fla$e9 ar"u$ent/ dedicated to safe"uardin" the
purity of classic hu$an ri"hts8 Instead/ I seek to tread a fine line between
$aintainin" a critical understandin" of ri"hts/ while defendin" a li$ited usefulness
for the$/ if properly concei%ed and i$ple$ented8 #hus I9ll be"in by pointin" out
three i$portant $isunderstandin"s of ri"hts contained in the $otion8
1) !uman rights are not the same as human dignity
Hu$an ri"hts talk in the )++1s has beco$e the idio$ in which all assertions of
di"nity are $ade8 In contrast/ I ar"ue that ri"hts are positi%ised rules re"ardin"
clai$s/ pri%ile"es and entitle$ents which are "enerally held by indi%iduals8 #hey are
narrow le"al instru$ents8 #hey are not e(tended $oral treatises on the worth or
di"nity of a "roup of persons/ as re<uired by the difference $ulticulturalists/ to use
#erry #urner9s label8
)1
It is $is"uided to fetishise ri"hts and treat the$ as a full-blown ethical code/
as only the $ost anae$ic $oral syste$ could be constructed fro$ a list of hu$an
ri"hts8 Ri"hts are not the sa$e as reli"ious for$ulations of hu$an di"nity/ nor are
they e<ui%alent to the $oral constraints on traditional for$s of authority8 #hey
constrain power in a wholly uni<ue historical conte(t> that is/ $odernity and the rise
of the $odern state8 Ri"hts are coter$inous with the le"ality of the $odern state
apparatus8
#his distinction between $orality and law is key to $y ar"u$ent/ as is the
realisation that $oral %alues and le"al nor$s are related to one another and are
$utually Falbeit asy$$etricallyE constituti%e8 Still/ they are not the sa$e thin"8 @or
the ad%ocates of difference/ ri"hts $ust perfectly reflect their own clai$s of $oral
worth8 2ut ri"hts are distinct fro$ $orality insofar as they are created by specialists
within a se$iautono$ous and often self-referential le"al discourse and they are
backed by the institutional and coerci%e apparatus of the $odern state8 #o assert
that le"al and $oral discourses are e(actly the sa$e is to $isunderstand the
relationship between ri"hts and states8
#he conse<uence of $y line of reasonin" is that we $ust accept li$itations on
the de"ree to which ri"hts e(press entire $oralities8 'therwise/ we are askin"
hu$an ri"hts to do so$ethin" for which they were not intended8 Hu$an ri"hts e(ist
to protect persons fro$ the aweso$e power of $odern state security institutions8
#his does not <uestion the %alidity of historically sti"$atised "roups to assert their
sense of collecti%e di"nity within the public space8 Howe%er/ it does <uestion the
institutionalisation of all assertions of pride in hu$an ri"hts co%enants8 I do not
<uestion public debate about di"nity and reco"nition/ instead I <uestion le"islation
10


T. Turner, “$nthro%olog# and multiculturalism2 what is anthro%olog# that multiculturalists
should e mindful of itG! <ultural $nthro%olog#, :',), ,**.,0+, *++(.
on the basis of identity and difference8 Ja$es 2rown9s =Sin" it -oud/ I9$ 2lack and
I9$ ,roud9 is powerful and persuasi%e as a son"/ an assertion of black !$erican
pride and a political rallyin" cry8 It is not %ery useful/ howe%er/ as the basis for
draftin" hu$an ri"hts le"islation8 D(actly why leads us on to the ne(t point8
*) Rights and collecti+e identities are incompatible
In theorisin" identity for$ation/ there is now a widely accepted anti-essentialis$ in
anthropolo"y and beyond8 Collecti%e identities are no lon"er understood in the
fashion of the $id-century cultural anthropolo"y of 2oas and 2enedict - as the
uncontested products of a sin"le/ bounded/ co$$unal culture8 Social researchers
now understand cultures as historically contin"ent and contested and collecti%e
identities as friable/ i$a"ined and e$er"ent8 #here is no inherent and i$$utable link
between culture and identity:this is accidental and dependent upon historical
circu$stances8
In contrast/ law essentialises identity8 -aw treats identity as neatly bounded/
fi(ed in ti$e and ho$o"enous in cultural content8 When law fi(es identity as
per$anent and unchan"in"/ it ossifies what is constantly chan"in" in the flow of
e%eryday life8 -e"al cate"ories deny the blurry ed"es of identity/ since they
for$ulate ri"id definitions that can stand up in a court of law8 In state le"ality there
is little roo$ for the co$ple(ities that $ake up the identity-for$in" processes of
e%eryday life8 #his does not bother $ost difference $ulticulturalists:they only see
how useful culture can be as an ideolo"ical resource to pursue their a"enda within
state and transnational institutions8
Ja$es Clifford captured the inco$patibility between law and identity in his
account of &ashpee Indians9 atte$pt to "ain title to lands which the US "o%ern$ent
ceded to the$ in a treaty si"ned in the late ei"hteenth century8
))
&ost &ashpee
cross-e(a$ined in court saw their Indian identity as contin"ent and chan"in"/ and as
e$bedded in e%eryday practices/ $any of which were not ethnically $arked8 #heir
history was characterised by co$ple( population $o%e$ents:i$$i"rations of
for$er sla%es and cyclical $i"rations to and fro$ urban centres8 #he law/ howe%er/
re<uired that there be a continuous thread of unbroken ethnic history fro$ the late
ei"hteenth century to the present8 !cade$ics were called to "i%e e(pert witness8 !n
anthropolo"ist said/ predictably/ that the &ashpee were whoe%er they said they
were8 !n historian/ usin" an essentialist conception of identity/ stated that the
present-day &ashpee had only the $ost tenuous connections to the &ashpee of the
ei"hteenth century8
#he ?ud"e accepted the historian9s %ersion/ re?ected the anthropolo"ist9s/ and
11


". <lifford, “Identit# among the Mash%ee!, in The %redicament of culture2 twentieth.centur#
ethnogra%h#, literature, and art, # ". <lifford, %%. 0//.(,:, <amridge, Mass., Har9ard Hni9ersit#
=ress, *+::.
ad?udicated a"ainst the land clai$ because &ashpee liti"ants could not present a
bounded and continuous case for their own identity8 !ny ri"ht to difference always
re<uires that difference be pro%ed accordin" to rules of e%idence of a court/ pushin"
"roups to use not an anthropolo"ical understandin" of identity/ but an out$oded
$id-century 2oasian $odel8 Were we to follow the ad%ice of the ro$antic
essentialists/ then e%en $ore anthropolo"ists would find the$sel%es in court
answerin" i$possible <uestions about whether a "roup clai$in" a cultural ri"ht
were really/ truly and authentically the ethnic "roup they clai$ed to be/ or an ethnic
"roup at all8 #he space to ar"ue for a $ore co$ple( readin" of identity would be
incredibly curtailed8
,) The ad+ocates of difference make a misplaced criti-ue of uni+ersal rights
!d%ocates of difference ar"ue that standard %ersions of hu$an ri"hts are too
indi%idualistic and uni%ersalisin" in their conception8 Hu$an ri"hts were concei%ed
durin" Duropean colonial e(pansion and they transfor$ western pre?udices into
uni%ersal in?unctions8 #he application of hu$an ri"hts in the twentieth century has
been riddled with hypocrisy8 #he last re$ainin" "lobal superpower/ the United
States/ supports certain abusi%e re"i$es such as ,inochet9s Chile/ but then bo$bs
other abusi%e re"i$es who fall out of fa%our/ with hu$an ri"hts as the prete(t8
Culturalist critics of hu$an ri"hts are therefore faced with a conundru$:
how to $ake hu$an ri"hts include historically e(cluded "roups/ while pre%entin"
this new atte$pt at inclusi%eness fro$ lapsin" into Durocentris$8 &any resort to
startin" with the notion of difference rather than shared hu$anity/ specificity rather
than e<uality/ the rhetorical ad%anta"e of historical ne"lect ?ustifyin" uni<ue "roup
ri"hts/ rather than ri"hts bein" accorded to indi%iduals re"ardless of their place in an
ethnic history8 #hus new o(y$orons are in%ented to dilute the word =hu$an9 which
causes such e$barrass$ent> for e(a$ple/ wo$en9s hu$an ri"hts/ refu"ees9 hu$an
ri"hts and indi"enous hu$an ri"hts8
It is possible to <uestion -ocke9s philosophy of indi%idualis$ and ob?ect to
the abuses of capital durin" the colonial e(pansion/ while at the sa$e ti$e seein" a
historical need for le"al $echanis$s to protect indi%iduals fro$ repressi%e state
institutions8 It is possible to ar"ue in fa%our of hu$an ri"hts for historically specific
reasons rather than uni%ersal ones8 @or a start/ one $ay clai$ that there are
co$$onalities between hu$ans without ha%in" a notion of hu$an nature8 Hu$an
ri"hts rely upon the co$$onality of our e(perience of particular historical
conditions:the rise of $odern states and urban/ industrial societies8 In ter$s of
e(periences of $odernity/ there is enor$ous %ariation/ but in ter$s of our hu$an
frailty when confronted with $odern state institutions/ we all re<uire the sa$e
protections8
)0
12


F.S. Turner, “Outline of a Theor# of Human Rights!, Sociolog# 0/'(), ,:+. &*0, *++(.
,ra"$atist political philosophy "i%es us "ood reasons for supportin" hu$an
ri"hts based upon e<uality without acceptin" $uch of the philosophical ba""a"e of
liberalis$8 It $aintains the %iew/ increasin"ly eroded by neo-liberal econo$ic
policies/ that we can co$bine to work to"ether towards co$$on "oals and $ore
?ust societies8 Its notion of a co$$on "ood arises not fro$ nationalists9 beliefs in
traditionally defined cultural "oods nor fro$ the uni%ersal ac<uisiti%e indi%iduals of
liberalis$ who desire only $aterial ac<uisition8 Rorty9s pra"$atis$ ar"ues for a
political consensus that does not re<uire unifor$ity and shared %alues but instead
re<uires only contin"ent alliances8
&ulticulturalists and pra"$atists would a"ree on certain thin"s:that a
unifor$ do$inant culture is neither a reality nor is it desirable8 #o pro$ote
difference as the foundation and the end result of ri"hts is to "i%e up on the idea of
creatin" shared "oals throu"h so$e for$ of contin"ent consensus8 It is to ad$it
defeat and to retreat to ethnic or cultural bunkers in a nasty Hobbesian world where
there is the war of all grou-s a"ainst all others/ $uch like the situation in 2osnia for
the last nine years/ as crystallised in that ni"ht$are of institutionalised difference/
the present 2osnian Constitution8 ,ra"$atis$ at least foresees the possibility of
$akin" political decisions throu"h an o%erlappin" consensus for specific issues
which re<uires that certain procedures for creatin" intersub?ecti%ity are a"reed
beforehand8
A blueprint for difference. the $ndigenous Rights Accord in Guatemala
So far I ha%e ar"ued that it is worth preser%in" e<ual ri"hts and $akin" the$ $ore
inclusi%e and procedurally fair/ rather than throwin" out the notion of e<uality and
be"innin" instead with difference and particularis$8 3ow I turn to an e$pirical
instance of codifyin" hu$an ri"hts alon" ethnic and lin"uistic lines8 #he ar"u$ent
has been $ade that indi"enous peoples are so abused and defenceless that they
re<uire special types of ri"hts in order to protect the$ and pro$ote their uni<ue
cultures8 #his is one reason why I ha%e picked the politics of indigeniso in
Guate$ala to ar"ue that seekin" to preser%e difference throu"h ri"hts is not "ood for
anyone in the end and especially for less powerful $e$bers of those societies8
)*
#he !"ree$ent on the Identity and Ri"hts of Indi"enous ,eoples was si"ned
in )++5 by representati%es of the "uerrillas and the Guate$alan "o%ern$ent as part
of a peace process that ended *A years of war8 #he !"ree$ent de$onstrates in a
concrete $anner the inconsistencies in the conception of a ri"ht to difference as well
as the concrete absurdities in its application8 #he !"ree$ent is blind to the kind of
a$bi"uities that under$ine atte$pts to le"ally enforce ethnic encla%es8 It repeats the
13


M# discussion draws from a cha%ter # R. Sieder and ". Iitchell in the forthcoming 9olume,
Righting culture2 anthro%ological %ers%ecti9es on rights struggles, 'eds) ". <owan, M. Demour
and R. Iilson, <amridge, <amridge Hni9ersit# =ress, 0--*.
$yths of ethno-nationalists/ speakin" of a ho$o"enous =-ueblo aya9 F&aya
peopleE who are =direct descendants of ancient &ayas98 #he !"ree$ent presents an
undifferentiated &aya people who were concei%ed in the distant $ists of the pre-
colonial period and it shows no awareness that indi"enous identity has been
continually rein%ented/ $ost recently in relation to the hu$an ri"hts talk of the
United 3ations8 #he !"ree$ent is a charter for ethno-nationalists/ reproducin" their
$yths:that co$$unities are discrete and internally ho$o"enous/ and that they
share a co$$on ori"in/ a co$$on unbroken history/ and a co$$on future8 -ittle of
this is the case8
#hat the !"ree$ent i"nores the fluid nature of identity raises all kinds of
<uestions about how it could be applied fairly in practice8 What about the ) $illion
&ayan lan"ua"e speakers Fo%er )5 per cent of all &aya speakersE who now li%e in
lin"uistically hetero"eneous barrios in the capital9s shantytowns; 'r what about
areas of $assi%e $i"ration such as !lta JerapaB where poor ladinos
)G
and &aya
speakers li%e in the sa$e %illa"es/ inter$arryin" and tryin" to eke out a li%in" on the
sa$e rocky soil; Would different sections of the sa$e %illa"e/ or e%en $e$bers of
the sa$e fa$ily/ answer to different le"al institutions; In disputes o%er land tenure/
would courts find in fa%our of indi"enous $e$bers o%er poor ladinos because the
clai$s of the for$er "roup are "ranted $ore wei"ht in le"islation; #his is a perfect
illustration of how the ri"ht to difference will obstruct alliances between the rural
poor/ since one "roup would ha%e special le"al ri"hts/ solely because they speak a
&ayan lan"ua"e and wear colourful clothes8 .adinos li%in" in "rindin" po%erty will
be depri%ed of special protections because they are si$ply poor and not e(otic8
#here are other proble$s with the !"ree$ent9s for$ulations of custo$ary
law8 #he !"ree$ent states that indi"enous le"al syste$s are founded upon a world
%iew which is =based on the har$onious relationship of all the ele$ents…FthatE has
been passed down fro$ "eneration to "eneration98
)5
#here is a failure to see that
rhetorical clai$s to har$ony $ask all kinds of class and "ender hierarchies and/
i$portantly/ the fact that local le"al institutions are controlled by elder $ales8 In
$any countries which "rant ?urisdiction to custo$ary law/ those in a subordinate
position Fusually wo$en and youn"er $enE opt out and pursue their ri"hts as
citiBens in the national ?ustice syste$8
)A
What the ad%ocates of difference for"et is
that the ri"ht to be different $ust also include the ri"ht not to be different8
#he Indi"enous !"ree$ent fails to reco"nise how local law has been
14


@adino is a term usuall# a%%lied to %eo%le who %utati9el# ha9e mi;ed indigenous.Euro%ean
ancestr# 6Ed.7.
15


$ID=I, section I, %aragra%h 0'iii).
16


T. H. Eriksen, “Multiculturalism, indi9idualism and human rights2 Romanticism, the
Enlightenment and lessons fom Mauritius!, in Human rights, culture and conte;t, 'ed.) R. Iilson,
@ondon, =luto =ress, *++/.
transfor$ed by a %icious counter-insur"ency war8 #he le"acy of the $ilitarisation of
society is now apparent in the wa%e of %i"ilante actions e%ident in the hi"hlands
since about )++G8 D%en thou"h there are relati%ely low le%els of cri$e in hi"hland
%illa"es/ there ha%e been nu$erous "risly acts of popular authoritarianis$8 'n a
re"ular basis/ petty thie%es are bein" hauled out of ?ails and burned ali%e by the
populace8 -ast Sunday/ three $en were hun" for alle"edly stealin" buildin"
$aterials fro$ a school8 #hey were doused in petrol and were ?ust about to be set
ali"ht when the police arri%ed and cut the$ down:they are now in intensi%e care in
a local hospital8
)6
#o "rant $ore power to local le"al institutions when they are in the "rip of a
wa%e of %i"ilantis$ and when there is a co$plete lack of respect for the ri"hts of
cri$inal suspects/ see$s to be a dan"erous way of pro$otin" hu$an ri"hts8 In the
conte(t of state terror/ popular authoritarianis$ and historically weak le"al
institutions/ it see$s safer to support ethnically un$arked de$ands for e<uality
rather than "roup ri"hts8 'ne $i"ht e%en end up with si$ilar outco$es8 @or
instance/ the state could entrench the ri"ht to &ayan interpreters in courts on the
"rounds of ensurin" e<ual access to ?ustice/ rather than collecti%e ri"hts for
=indi"enous peoples98 2y i$pro%in" the ri"ht of all citiBens to due process and le"al
representation/ one $i"ht be"in to create a cri$inal ?ustice syste$ which is not
corrupt/ ineffecti%e and e(clusi%e of non-Spanish speakers8 #his would be hi"hly
preferable to a dualistic syste$ where/ for those with $oney/ there is state law
social pri%ile"e and access to lawyers/ while an i$po%erished custo$ary law sector
deals with &aya-speakin" areas8 It is i$portant to re$e$ber the parlous history of
custo$ary law in !frica and to recall how/ in Rhodesia/ apartheid/ 2ritish colonial
rule and white rule all in%oked the lan"ua"e of irreducible racial and cultural
difference in order to $aintain dualistic syste$s of le"ally institutionalised racis$8
What perhaps needs e(plainin" is how ideas of $ulticulturalis$ fro$ 3orth
!$erica/ transported by the United 3ations/ had any purchase at all in a s$all
Central !$erican country8 #here are certain si$ilarities/ if one looks hard:both
Guate$ala and the US! share a %irulent anti-Co$$unist nationalis$> in both
countries/ the -eft is utterly defeated and =culture9 has cannibalised political
discourse8 In focusin" on the defeat of the -eft/ we "et an insi"ht into understandin"
why hu$an ri"hts are now bein" bent to the i$perati%es of difference8 Richard
Rorty has written a lucid account of the history of the -eft9s transfor$ation in the
US! fro$ a political left to a cultural left8
)7
!fter the Jietna$ war/ the 3ew -eft
disen"a"ed fro$ the labour $o%e$ent/ dropped its concern with policy and
retreated into an abstract obscurantis$ where doctrinal purity could be $aintained8
17


@a Hora, 0&J*-J++.
18


R. Rort#, $chie9ing our countr#2, leftist thought in twentieth.centur# $merica, <amridge,
Mass., Har9ard Hni9ersit# =ress, *++:.
2y the late )+71s/ it inhabited position of =resi"ned spectatorship9/ which Rorty
describes as =Gothic9 in its reliance on $a"ical transfor$ations in analysis and
politics8
#he resi"ned -eft builds its %ocabulary around a notion of sinC the
co$$ission of acts by the US! Fe8"8/ slau"hter of 3ati%e !$ericans and
ensla%e$ent of !fricansE $eans that the country was concei%ed in sin and is
therefore irredee$able8 Rorty wryly obser%es that the ubi<uity of @oucault9s notion
of power is re$iniscent of the ubi<uity of ori"inal sin8
)+
#he notion allows the
construction of a Gothic world of spiritual pathosC
It produces drea$s not of political refor$s but of ine(plicable/ $a"ical
transfor$ation8 #he cultural left has contributed to the for$ation of this
politically useless unconscious not only by adoptin" =power9 as the
na$e of an in%isible/ ubi<uitous and $ale%olent presence/ but by
adoptin" ideals which nobody is yet able to i$a"ine bein" actualiBed8
01

#he conse<uence is a position of principled hopelessness/ a defeatist and pessi$istic
%iew of the world8 #he acade$ic -eft has colluded with the political Ri"ht by
$akin" cultural issues central to public debate/ whereas before fa$ily %alues and
cultures of po%erty were the pro%ince of conser%ati%e politicians8 !n increased
attention to difference has $eant i"norin" socio-econo$ic issues/ as only those
hu$iliated for reasons other than econo$ic status are worthy of study8 Rorty points
out that no one is settin" up pro"ra$$es in ho$eless studies or trailer park studies
because they are not =other9 in the rele%ant sense8
0)
So while we learn about how
people are labelled and co$e to internalise their sti"$a/ scholars are i"norin"
po%erty and "rowin" econo$ic ine<uality and e(clusion8
It is not a coincidence that this intellectual pessi$is$ consolidated itself in
the )+71s/ durin" the rise of neo-liberalis$ and the accelerated "lobalisation of
capital8 In the US!/ the entrenchin" of ri"hts to difference has si"nificantly
contributed to the construction of racial and ethnic bunkers where no co$$on social
co$$it$ent can be defended8 #his is the perfect cultural and political
acco$pani$ent to the econo$ics of neo-liberalis$/ to #hatcher9s death of society/
and to @ukuya$a9s end of history8 It accepts the end of a political co$$unity to
which one has obli"ations and duties as a citiBen/ and the end of any notion of
shared ci%ic responsibility8
Instead of askin" how we $i"ht pro$ote difference throu"h hu$an ri"hts/ we
19


O%. cit., %. +&.
20


O%. cit., %. *-0.
21


O%. cit., %. :-.
ou"ht to ask how $i"ht we construct "o%ern$ental institutions which do not
hu$iliate citiBens8 #he answer does not rely upon $oral uni%ersalis$ or an
ho$o"eneous %alue syste$8 3eo-pra"$atist political philosophy allows us to $o%e
away fro$ the foundationalist lan"ua"e of $ainstrea$ liberalis$/ as it states that
truths are produced by an intersub?ecti%e consensus between persons/ not fro$ the
accurate representation of a reality de%oid of sub?ecti%ity8 Since citiBens will no
doubt ha%e different needs/ they will probably disa"ree about political truths8 #here
can only be one ade<uate response to this:the creation of $echanis$s and
procedures dedicated to reconcilin" needs/ includin" as $any people as possible in
the process/ thus widenin" the e(istin" consensus and fusin" horiBons/ to use
Gada$er9s phrase8 #his $akes the process sound easy8 It is not8 #he
constitutionalist readin" of citiBenship ad%ocated here is flawed/ and i$possible to
fully realise/ but it is still preferable to all other solutions8
00
22


See ". Haermas, “<itiKenshi% and national identit#2 some reflections on the future of
Euro%e!, =ra;is International *0'0),*.*+, *++0.
)or the otion F0E
$R$" /EA#0(E$#
In )++G/ a%id -owenthal and ,enelope Har%ey proposed the G!# $otion/ =#he
past is a forei"n country89 #hey were ?ustified in notin" a si"nificant difference
between the $otion debated that year and those debated pre%iouslyC the no%elty lay
in the fact that they were ha%in" to consider the %alidity of a eta-hor8 !"ain today/
we ha%e before us a rather e(traordinary type of proposition8 #his ti$e/ it asks us as
anthropolo"ists not/ as is co$$only the case/ to apply our di%erse e(periences and
current understandin"s to probe so$e $ethodolo"ical or theoretical proble$atic of
burnin" interest $ostly Fif not e(clusi%elyE to $e$bers of the discipline and the
acade$e8 Instead/ it asks us to i$a"ine a situation/ as yet unrealised but $uch
fantasised about/ in which we are asked to ad?udicate points of debate which are
part of a political discourse that e(tends across the "lobe8 !s $y distin"uished
collea"ue Richard Wilson/ who speaks a"ainst the $otion today/ has written/ =the
lan"ua"e of hu$an ri"hts has $o%ed in to fill the %acuu$ left by the de$ise of "rand
political narrati%es98
0*
#oday we ha%e the opportunity to rehearse what it $i"ht be like if we added
our %oice to such public discourses/ see$in"ly speakin" the he"e$onic =lan"ua"e9
Fof =ri"hts9E/ but actually slippin" into the debates out there our own/ sub%ersi%e
perspecti%es> that is to say/ installin" a safe-"uardin" $echanis$ a"ainst the o%er-
deter$ination of persons/ of identities and/ $ost of all/ of knowled"e8
-istenin" to Dlisabeth Colson9s deli"htful after-dinner speech last ni"ht> and
to the %ote of thanks proposed on the sa$e occasion by the Head of epart$ent at
&anchester/ John Gledhill/ to the or"anisers of this $ar%ellous conference> and to
$any %oices in the %arious panels/ it beco$es clear to $e that there was a ti$e:at
least/ we ha%e now be"un to =re$e$ber9 our history in this constructi%e way:when
anthropolo"y as an acade$ic discipline pursued a %ision of itself as bein" of use to
and $akin" a real difference in the world8 It beco$es clear to $e too that this is a
good thin"8
0G
#his %ision has been stifled these past two decades in bouts of self-
doubt and disciplinary /&isten0angst8 #his was necessary and producti%e/ to be
23


“Introduction!, in Human rights, culture, and conte;t2 anthro%ological %ers%ecti9es, 'ed.) R.
Iilson, @ondon, =luto =ress, *++/.
24


<f. R. 3. Fo; 'ed.), Reca%turing anthro%olog#2 working in the %resent, Santa Fe, 4ew
Me;ico, School of $merican Research =ress,*++*.
sure/ and let us not for"et that in the interi$ one could afford to do so8 3o lon"erI
Such a %ision is currently bein" recalled/ like a lost lo%er/ and eyed up with a %iew
to repossess/ and this ti$e keep8 =We should be $ore arro"ant8 -et us declare
oursel%esI9/ John Gledhill ad$onished in his speech last ni"ht FI paraphrase and
ad$it that $y recall of his words $i"ht ha%e been clouded by wineE8
What/ howe%er/ would it be that we as anthropolo"ists:such a di%erse/
disa"reein"/ but also healthily debatin" F%ery occasionally bickerin"E co$$unity:
could possibly a"ree collecti%ely to contribute to the world/ and not re"ret later8
&any ha%e re"retted aidin" the circulation of a half-baked/ o%erly static/ essentialist/
unified/ closed/ deter$inate and "eneralisin" concept of =culture98
05
Such a concept
was soon to be echoed by nationalist politicians and totalitarian re"i$es Fwhich will
precisely not tolerate =difference9E to ?ustify heinous policies and actions to the
outside world/ and to defend the$sel%es a"ainst national Fnot/ I e$phasise/
=cultural9IE interference and the application of =hu$an ri"hts9 codes to the$8 #he
recent =War a"ainst Wo$en9 which the #aliban $o%e$ent in !f"hanistan has been
conductin" Fand I ha%e no proble$s concei%in" of the e%ents in these ter$sE/ in the
na$e of a pure =Isla$ic9 culture/ $ust send shi%ers down our spinesI #hese are
hi"hly calculated and cynical political in%entions of =culture9/ and their in%entors Fas
also their %icti$sE 1no# the$ to be so8
We chastise oursel%es that anthropolo"ists deli%ered the notion of =culture9 to
political cri$inals such as these and/ in the sense that our transactions with the
concept reified and sacralised it/ this is true8 !nthropolo"ists and other scholars in
the business of representin" =Isla$ic9 &iddle Dastern societies in particular ha%e
only recently broken away fro$ a tradition of scholarship which was in the habit of
i-osing on Isla$icist =offenders a"ainst hu$an ri"hts9 a certain entrap$ent in the
$oral econo$y of =particularis$98
0A
Historically speakin"/ particularis$ is
anthropolo"y9s funda$ental understandin" of =cultural difference9 and it do$inates
hu$an ri"hts considerations of =difference9 too8 I speak for =difference9/ but not
therefore for the particularis$-%ersus-uni%ersalis$ distinction8 #his point/ that
distinction/ are critical to $y ar"u$ent8
Isla$ic "o%ern$ents Fas well as non-"o%ern$ental or"anisationsE in the
&iddle Dast notoriously clai$ for the$sel%es a =distincti%e9 position in relation to
international Hu$an Ri"hts discourse Fa position shared partly with third world
25


See ". S%encer “Iriting within2 anthro%olog#, nationalism, and culture in Sri @anka,!
<urrent $nthro%olog# (*'(), 0:(.(--, *++-8 R. Handler “On dialogue and deconstructi9e
anal#sis2 %rolems in narrating nationalism and ethnicit#,! "ournal of $nthro%ological Research ,,
*/*.:0, *+:&. These articles also note that anthro%olog#Ls earl# conce%tion of culture was not an
in9ention # anthro%ologists, ut directl# continuous with the understanding of the conce%t in
3erman Romanticism.
26


See M. Dw#er, “Fe#ond a oundar#2 Nuni9ersal human rightsL and the Middle East!,
$nthro%olog# Toda# *('1), *(.*:, *++/.
countries/ but linked by these "o%ern$ents9 spokespersons $ore specifically to the
=Isla$ic9 character of their societiesE8
06
It is also true/ on the other hand/ that in
notoriously accusin" &iddle Dastern "o%ern$ents-cu$-societies of "ross hu$an
ri"hts %iolations based on Isla$ic law/ the discourse of the =international9
co$$unity continuously co-constructs what it decries as a particularly deter$inate/
inescapable/ i$$utable and inco$$ensurable syste$ of belief and social action8
07
!nd it underhandedly $aintains a proble$atic di%ision between =particularistic9 and
=uni%ersalistic9 societies8 #he proble$ is the series of polar opposites that "ets
coupled with this opposition and with an understandin" of =difference9 in these
ter$s8 !propos the Isla$ic &iddle Dast/ it tri""ers an opposition between
ethnicLreli"ious %ersus secularL$ainstrea$> irrational %ersus rational> intolerant of
difference %ersus tolerant> and ulti$ately/ between co$$unities which are tar"ets of
hu$an ri"hts pro?ects and those which define and launch the$8
3ot only $ali"nant politicians and political re"i$es Fand/ inad%ertently or
not/ so$eti$es scholars alon" with the$E/ but also well-$eanin" political/ le"al and
philosophical considerations of =hu$an ri"hts9 ha%e for so$e ti$e taken a
reco"nition of so$ethin" like =culture9 and =cultural di%ersity9 as a startin" point for
their "lobalisin" pro?ect8
0+
#he ontolo"y of =culture9 which is put to use in these
e(ercises/ alas/ is the one the discipline has painstakin"ly rethou"ht and would
prefer now to ha%e pulled out of circulation8 Unfortunately/ concepts tra%el:unlike
?ackets which lea%e the asse$bly lines with faulty Bippers/ when $anufacturers are
in a position to issue a product recall and little har$ is done e%en where the recall
fails to reach all users8 Still/ we need not be so thorou"hly resi"ned to the
spectators9 seats as our discarded understandin"s cruise the world9s $ore influential
discourses8 !fter all/ we can i$a"ine we once had a trenchant i$pact8 Where the
old understandin" of =culture9 is concerned/ we credit oursel%es with rather a lot of
influence> could we not ha%e it a"ain/ and a"ain; We could/ that is to say/ set out
deliberately to unsettle o%erly secure and deter$inate uses of =culture9:or of
27


See F. Hallida#, “Relati9ism and uni9ersalism in human rights2 the case of the Islamic
Middle East!, =olitical Studies ,(,*&0.*1/, *++&. On non.go9ernmental organisations, see D.
<hatt# and $. Rao 'eds), OrganiKing women2 formal and informal womenLs grou%s in the Middle
East, O;ford, Ferg, *++/.
28


Dw#er 'o%. cit.) and Hallida# 'o%. cit.) draw attention to four areas which are commonl# of
concern to NinternationalL human rights interests where the Middle East is concerned, and which
are attriuted to Islamic law2 hadd %unishment 'including cor%oral %unishment, torture,
am%utation and the death %enalt#)8 restrictions on women8 restrictions on non.Muslims8 and
intolerance of Na%ostas#L.
29


For a %articularl# earl# and sensiti9e use of NcultureL in %hiloso%hical discourses on NrightsL,
see <. Ta#lor “Thinking aout minorities, %art I. $ world consensus on human rightsG!, Dissent
'summer issue), %%. *&.0*, *++1.
=difference9 for that $atter:in the public foru$s of this world/ as we declare our
anthropolo"ically Fthat $ust $ean/ ethno"raphicallyE infor$ed opinions on public
issues8
2ack to our <uestion8 What/ if not culture/ could anthropolo"ists a"ree to
declare as anthropolo"y9s contribution; F!nd why not also =culture9; Why not push
into popular circulation our new i$pro%ed understandin" of it/ and with it e%idence
that we inhabit a world where understandin"s are ne%er co$plete; It would be
bound to reach so$e folks8 I should indeed be deli"hted to oppose a $otion/ =#he
notion of culture is obsolete98 3ot today/ howe%er8E #oday I want to "i%e you "ood
reasons why =difference9 is the $ost suitable/ strate"ic/ because infinitely and
incessantly producti%e principle for us as a professional co$$unity to stand by and
defend/ and e%en see entrenched as ri"ht in law/ if doin" so is dee$ed necessary8
!lthou"h in so$e sense/ this would in%ol%e a redundancyC hu$anity cannot be
stopped fro$ =doin" difference98 How could an acti%ity so funda$ental to hu$an
sociality co$e to be percei%ed as a =ri"ht9 and in need of protection; F#his/ I
suspect/ is the $ore intri"uin" <uestion e$bedded in this $otion8E
I say we can ha%e our cake and eat it tooC retain the critical/ co$parati%e/ and
in this sense infinitely open =position9 that characterises our discipline/ at the sa$e
ti$e as we %ery literally $ake a difference in the worldC shiftin" understandin"s of
=difference9 Fthe ontolo"y of it/ not any particular instanceE/ while we ha%e our say
in politics and public policy8
#he "reatest stren"th of the notion of =difference9/ I put it to you/ is that it
actually says nothin" or/ to put it $ore positi%ely/ it can be $ade to $ean absolutely
anythin" at allC di%ersity/ $ultiplicity/ fra"$entation/ hetero"eneity/ ar"u$entation/
debate:these are ?ust so$e of the uses which I "athered yesterday in the course of
$y field e(cursions into %arious panels/ discussions and discourses that for$ed part
of this conference/ listenin" out for uses8 #hat I would find $y collea"ues $akin"
feisty use of it/ of this I was sure8 !fter all/ a =passion for difference9
*1
has swept
throu"h the discipline and swept into the "utters our for$er Fand $ore $ethodically
e(ercisedE passion for =culture9 as it has ser%ed as the principal source of culture9s
destabilisation8
*)
!nd after culture9s de$ise/ it has stood in as its surro"ate/ takin"
on the role of key Fdis-Eor"anisin" $etaphor of the discipline/ the =paradi"$9 that
brid"es all differences a$on" us8 It has $any of us confused/ nonetheless/ so $any
and contradictory are the truths which =difference9 can e%idently representC =cultural
difference9 as well as differences under$inin" and fra"$entin" =culture98
In our theorisin"/ then/ and throu"h the recent =crisis of representation9/
=difference9 has done wonders for us> $ost of all/ in $y %iew/ because it has
30


$fter Henrietta MooreOs monogra%h '*++,) of the same title.
31


See, for e;am%le, @. $u.@ughod, Iriting womenLs worlds2 Fedouin stories, Ferkele#,
Hni9ersit# of <alifornia =ress, *++(.
resisted efforts to pin one particular $eanin" down8 It is likely that it will ha%e the
sa$e power in the real world/ once let loose on people and their daily stru""les8 In
fact/ we already know it does> our ethno"raphies tell us soI Dthno"raphy instructs us
:the &elanesian ethno"raphy of &8 Strathern/ $ost co$pellin"ly so:that/ while it
is not always pointed out in so $any words/ doin" =difference9 is a funda$ental
principle of hu$an =producti%ity9 in all its sensesC aesthetic/ sy$bolic/ intellectual/
econo$ic/ political8
*0
F2y =producti%ity9 I $ean no $ore here than =ha%in"
si"nificant effect9> it is not a state$ent on how %arious sub?ects in%ol%ed in and
affected by it $ay e(perience it8E ifference is the stuff of which =orders9/ all
orders/ are fashioned8
**
!nd all orders also li$it the kind of =differences9 they are
attuned to/ tolerate and necessitate8 'ne of the li$its of the hu$an ri"hts pro?ect9s
tolerance for =difference9/ which is thrown into relief when =international hu$an
ri"hts9 concerns are pitted a"ainst =Isla$ic societies9/ as I noted earlier/ is that
between =particularistic9:e<uals reli"ious/ irrational/ intolerant:and
=uni%ersalistic9:e<uals western/ secular/ rational/ tolerant:outlooks8
#he $otion thus proposes to a"ree to the political and le"al inscription as
=ri"ht9:and that $eans/ as an o-tional acti%ity:what is in any e%ent a condition of
production of all hu$an si"nification/ co$$unication and sociality8 #autolo"ical;
Redundant; 2anal; Hes/ and thus anodyne and har$less/ at worst8 !t best/
howe%er/ a $eans of "uardin" a"ainst the e(cesses of o%erly deter$ined liberal
efforts which would not be satisfied with such a "eneral state$ent/ but would seek
to specify and enu$erate which kinds of differences are =si"nificant9 and should be
=ri"ht9/ and which kinds are wron"8 @i(in" a particular set and ontolo"y of
difference cancels out the $oral econo$y of =difference9 which we know to be at
playC inherently i$plyin" $otion/ ani$ation/ and relation>
*G
as well as e%er only
32


N4ot all moral orders 6culturesG7 we know of 9enerate and celerate “difference! as we
do...as an endless %rocess of fragmentation and instailit#L 'R. Iilson, o%. cit.).
33


It was %rinci%all# "ac>ues Derrida who re9ealed NdifferenceL as a force, i.e., a mo9ement of
distinction and o%%osition which is the fundamental %rinci%le of facilitation in the %roduction
'etter thought of as instantiation) of %henomena >ua %resence, or of knowledge >ua truth. See <.
"ohnson, S#stem and writing in the %hiloso%h# of Derrida, <amridge, <amridge Hni9ersit#
=ress, *++(, %%. *:.0-, ,-.,0, /,.:*. Derrida la#s this out most s#stematicall# in Of
grammatolog#, translated and with introduction # 3. S%i9ak, Faltimore, "ohns Ho%kins
Hni9ersit#, *+/1, and in Iriting and difference, translated and with introduction # $lan Fass,
<hicago, <hicago Hni9erist# =ress, *+/:, %. 0-*. See also Ferdinand de Saussure, <ours de
linguisti>ue generale, =aris, =a#ot, *+10.
34


I mean motion in a odil#, and that must mean, social sense, following on from Merleau.
=ont#Os dis>uisition on the significance of od# mo9ement through s%ace in what 'in m# reading)
constitutes a %henomenolog# of the Heideggerian Ncare towardsL, Nin9ol9ement inL or Nsignificance
ofL the world that instates the emodied suAect into the e>uation. See M. Merleau.=ont#,
=henomenolog# of =erce%tion, @ondon, Routledge and Megan =aul, *+10, es%. cha%ters ( and 18
bein" $o$entary8
*5
FSi$ultaneously/ one would of course ossify an historically
particular ontolo"y of difference8E #hus/ I a$ ad%ocatin" =difference9 as connotin"
social dyna$is$/ acti%ity/ process/ tension:and ar"u$entation:as one/ if not the/
funda$ental hu$an ri"htLrite8 !lthou"h a noun/ in it inhere the properties of a %erbC
%erbal and e$bodied acti%ity8 F#o echo a thou"ht e(pressed by our collea"ue
Richard Werbner durin" his Gluck$an lecture/ =e<uality/ like de$ocracy/ $ust
re$ain a "oal we ne%er stop pursuin"/ but also ne%er fully attain98 @or/ were that
"oal to be realised/ it would $ean the arrest of all creati%ity8E
&y point is this8 2y optin" for =difference9 Fbut not particular kinds of
differenceIE as ri"ht/ we s$u""le into =ri"hts9 lan"ua"e and culture sufficient
fle(ibility/ $obility and dyna$is$/ enou"h to pre-e$pt or sub%ert the force Fthe
power of endurance/ deter$ination/ constraint/ i$positionE which is always a
possible underside of inscription Fbecause it freeBes $o%e$entE8 We thus te$per the
possible %iolence of =$oral rulin"9 on which the do$inant world see$s bent:I
a"ree with the opposition/ $orality can not be enforced by law:a for$ of %iolence
which this discourse on funda$ental hu$an ri"hts and their %iolation fails to
reco"nise and ponder8 We seiBe the opportunity to s$u""le in the te$perin"
$echanis$> and thus $ake a difference in the world8
@inally/ let $e put to you another aspect of =difference9 as I ad%ocate it here/
which renders it pre"nant with possibilities to ha%e cross-cultural Fyes/ $y
collea"ues still ha%e need for and help the$sel%es to this notionE resonance/
rele%ance and appeal8 #hose who ha%e spent $ore ti$e and intellectual effort than
$yself thinkin" about the possibility of the hu$an ri"hts pro?ect crossin" boundaries
of =cultures9 Fthe currently correct ter$s are =$oral orders9 or =settin"s9E/ ha%e
obser%ed what is by now a truis$C that the conception of =hu$an9/ the cate"ory of
the indi%idual and the e$phasis on indi%idual autono$y/ freedo$/ self-control and
self-"ratification/ all of which are funda$ental to hu$an ri"hts rhetoric if not
associated practices/ are not uni%ersally reco"nised or $eanin"ful8
*A
In raisin" this
issue I a$ $o%in" on to address the i$portant <uestion of the appropriate sub?ect-
cu$-proprietor of ri"hts8 Usefully/ I think/ the way in which the $otion is
for$ulated Fit does not specify particular kinds of differences to be =ri"hted9C
"ender/ ethnicity/ national identity/ a"e/ class would be the standard catalo"ue one
M. Heidegger, Feing and Time, @ondon, Fasil Flackwell, *+10.
35


Emerging as distinct %resences not at moments when NdifferenceL is inacti9e, su%%ressed or
arrested, as Derrida suggests 'o%. cit.), ut, as ethnogra%hic e9idence from Melanesia and the $ra
world indicates, %recisel# while the differing is enacted, in animation. 'Here I eg to differ with the
great %hiloso%her.)
36


<f. <. Ta#lor 'o%. cit.), R. Iilson 'o%. cit.). $mong the leading anthro%ological
commentators who ha9e estalished this insight in the conte;t of different anthro%ological deates
are Maril#n Strathern, Tim Ingold, Michael <arrithers and Frian Morris.
would e(pect $etropolitan social scientists to call upE lea%es the sub?ect or =owner9
of such a ri"ht unspecified8 2ut it speaks considerably a"ainst it bein" transfi(ed as
=the indi%idual98
*6
!fter all/ and despite he"e$onic western ideolo"ies of
indi%idualis$/ =difference9 is not so$ethin" Fnot e%en =in the west9E that one alone/
the sin"ular sub?ect/ can actually do/ let alone =be98 It is an effect or property
e$er"in" out of relationships/ of social interaction/ and if it be an acti%ity instated in
law it $ust hold people-in-relationships ?ointly responsible For accountable/ as the
case $ay beE8
*7
I do not i$a"ine the relational $akin" of =differences9 which are
considered necessary and producti%e and the concurrent suppression of differences
not Fno lon"erE thou"ht of that way by the %arious participants/ is intrinsically a
har$onious and a"reeable enterprise8 Dthno"raphy shows it can entail tension/
$anipulation/ persuasion borderin" on coercion/ and in this sense e(traction8
&elanesian "enderFin"E practices de$onstrate this8 So do "ender practices
concentrated in the &iddle Dast and north-east !frica/ which entail sur"ical
inter%ention to socially =co$plete9 what nature For rather/ GodE left unfinished8 #he
$ost widely known and talked-about case of this is fe$ale circu$cision and
infibulation8
*+
2ut to en"a"e in such =tu"s of war9 o%er which differences need and
need not to be $ade/ and in what fashion/ is as funda$ental a hu$an riteLri"ht as
doin" =difference9> it is a critical aspect of all practices of =difference9 known to us8
I a"ree with Drnesto -aclau when he says/ =the ontolo"ical possibility for clashes
and une%enness are what also "i%e us "round to speak of freedo$98
G1

#he fe$inist pro?ect Fanother hybrid political-cu$-scholarly pro?ect to which
37


The indi9idual figures as the Nnatural ownerL of human rights in the %ragmatic and
indi9idualistic %hiloso%h# of Richard Rort# 'e.g., OAecti9it#, relati9ism, and truth, <amridge,
<amridge Hni9ersit# =ress, *++*) and his followers in anthro%olog# 'e.g., 4. Ra%%ort, “The
=otential of Human Rights in a =ost.<ultural Iorld!, Social $nthro%olog# 1'(), (:*.(::, *++:).
38


On similar grounds, I would oAect to attaching the right to difference to the alternati9e
NsuAectL in contem%orar# human rights thought and %ractice, to astract cor%orate entities such as
Nethnic grou%sL or Nindigenous %eo%lesL. This in9ol9es a fi;ing of Nrites of differenceL and the
NethnicisationL of differences singled out and froKen in time. Fut most im%ortantl#, NdifferenceL is
there# %egged onto the concrete 'as.if.concrete, I should sa#) entit# of %eo%le concei9ed of as
N%articular'istic)L. $s I said earlier, historicall# social science and %o%ulist understandings of
NdifferentL as N%articularL im%l# a %olar o%%osition etween %articular'ism) and uni9ersal'ism), and a
hierarchical, as#mmetrical e9aluation of that difference. NEthnicsL are differentPwhat goes unsaid is
that NweLJthe rest are the Nuni9ersalL centre that defines the norms and standards from which others
differ. Differences, and the right to difference, must remain the collecti9e %ro%ert# of humanit#.in.
'social inter.)action.
39


See ". Fodd#, Ioms and alien s%irits, Madison, Hni9ersit# of Iisconsin =ress, *+:+8 S.
@a9ie, The %oetics of militar# occu%ation, Ferkele#, Hni9ersit# of <alifornia =ress, *+:+.
40


E. @aclau, Emanci%ation's), @ondon, ?erso, *++1, %%. **&.**1.
the current hu$an ri"hts enterprise $i"ht be fruitfully co$paredE has also had to
o%erco$e and resol%e the e(cesses of the liberal hu$anitarian spirit bent on ru""ed
indi%idualis$8 -isten to these words of a collea"ue in the field of "ender studies in
&iddle Dastern ethno"raphy who I $uch respect/ in the course of her e(ploration of
points of intersection/ dialo"ue and conflict between discourses that e$anate fro$
distinct socio-historical locations:tracin" the i$pact and reception not of the
hu$an ri"hts discourse/ but of western =fe$inist9 discoursesC
! percei%ed e$phasis Min all western brands of fe$inis$N on the pri$acy of
indi%idual autono$y and "ratification/ includin" se(ual liberation/ and the
denunciation of $en as the $ain ene$y Mall of which characterises =radical
fe$inis$9 only/ the author points outN/ could easily "o a"ainst the cultural
"rain in societies where both $en and wo$en are ti"htly en$eshed in
fa$ilistic networks and $utual ri"hts and obli"ations/ where both se(es $ay
be labourin" under $uch harsher for$s of econo$ic and political oppression/
and where different possibilities e(ist for cross-"ender coalition Mwhich we
$i"ht not understand or e%en percei%eN8
G)
If =doin" ri"ht9 is what =the world9 For rather/ currently do$inant actors in itE is bent
on doin" at this particular historical ?uncture/ then let us not stand by idly8 -et us
ensure that it is a principle/ the %aried stren"ths of which we reco"nise on the basis
of our %arious ethno"raphic e(periences and collecti%e theorisin" efforts durin" the
last two decades:such a funda$ental and producti%e hu$an profession> such a
slippery/ indeter$inate and non-co$$ittal or"anisin" de%ice as diff'rance:that is
reified in law8 I thus ur"e you to %ote for =difference98
41


D. Mandi#oti, “<ontem%orar# feminist scholarshi% in Middle Eastern Studies!, in 3endering
the Middle East, 'ed.) D. Mandi#oti, @ondon, I.F. Tauris =ulishers, *++1.
Against the otion F0E
/%!# !1T#'0
$t all sounds good. difference2 who could be against it3
@or appro%al9s sake/ for the lo%e of popularity/ for =$akin" nice9/ it would be ?ust
"reat to be =for9 difference8 2ut difference is a deceit/ a trick/ a $ind candy we are
sold to placate us/ to $ake us feel "ood in =$ulticulti9 ways8 It does not/ and cannot/
lead us to anythin" like freedo$8 Who in all seriousness could be a"ainst difference
in this ti$e when we are witness to the al$ost uni%ersal e(tension of the
e(ploitati%e econo$ic and cultural syste$ known as "lobal capitalis$; I will be8
#he bi" bo"ey here is $onoculture/ that ho$o"enisin" force that tra%els with
capital and turns all culture into the sa$e8 #his is -O%i-Strauss la$entin" the loss of
rituals and custo$s as the $uck of the West was thrown in his face where%er he
went8
G0
&onoculture is the antithesis of difference and $onoculture is bad8 !"ainst
it/ anthropolo"y can be concei%ed as a sal%a"e $ission8 #hat is/ if we assu$e
capitalis$ is e%erywhere the sa$e8
!ow far ha+e we come today3
Is the new enthusias$ for discussion of difference all that new; I ha%e in $ind a
debate held under the auspices of the Dthnolo"ical Society whose $e$bers ar"ued
a"ainst the newly for$ed !nthropolo"ical Society in )76) in a s<uabble o%er the
issue of difference8 #he s<uabble/ as such thin"s so often are/ was o%er $atters of
definition/ but with $uch wider i$port8 !t stake was the possibility of usin"
lan"ua"e/ rather than race/ as a criterion of e(planation for obser%able differences
between the %arious peoples of the world8 #he learned "entle$en of these two
bodies initiated a discussion wantin" to decide and de$arcate differences in "ood
order:a tendency fro$ o%er a hundred years a"o that is not unlike what we are
rehearsin" here today8
!n anthropolo"y worth anythin" at all today will of course be aware that
bein" is not so$ethin" that can be si$ply different/ or the sa$e/ nor that the issue of
representation is easy8 What notions of boundedness/ of culture/ of "roup/ tribe/
type/ classificatory "roup $ust be deployed for there to be an allocation of
differentness or not; 3otions of social construction will tell us fro$ so$e
perspecti%es we are all $ore the sa$e than we are different8 Consider the absurdity/
e%en the racis$ or e(oticis$/ that is i$plied when it is said that "roup P are
42


<. @Q9i.Strauss, Tristes tro%i>ues, @ondon, "onathon <a%e, *+&&.
=different98 !nd there will be as $uch internal differentiation within a "roup as
between "roups8
Het/ anthropolo"ists ha%e always found fa$e and ?ustification in bein" the
ad%ocates of difference8 -et us e(a$ine this with a bit of scatter-"un historyC
nineteenth-century e%olutionist anthropolo"ists first arrayed difference o%er a
de%elop$ental cycle of =pro"ress98 #he old routine fro$ barbaris$ on to the bo$b8
#his $indset "a%e way to relati%is$C difference was arrayed across culture and
"eo"raphy/ $appin" and shadin" and the colour pink on which the sun ne%er set
was fra"$ented and e%er so sli"htly rearran"ed8 !nd then today/ when post$odern
confusion pre%ails as capitalist transition further e(tends its cannibalisin" reach
e%erywhere/ the ra$pant celebration of difference as e(otica and fascinatin"
=incon"ruous detail9 Fthink of Ja$es Clifford $es$erised before the Wa"hiE lea%es
historical and continuin" ine<ualities and e(ploitation unacknowled"ed8
G*
#he production of difference has been a staple of the realist persuasi%e fiction
of anthropolo"y since at least &alinowski8 #he theoretical and structural
FfunctionalE ele%ation of difference as $ethodolo"ical principle also had/
parado(ically/ the effect of castin" the anthropolo"ist in the dual role of/ first/
pur%eyor of biBarre differences and/ second/ infor$ed analyst who then rendered
sensible such differences8 Without positin" difference there could be no authorial
ad%enture throu"h intrepid fieldwork and on unto representation8 3o pri%ile"e of
bein" the intrepid e(plorer who will return captain9s lo" full of interestin" star data/
reportin" fro$ the frontier8
#he ri"ht to difference is the pri$e directi%e of Star #rek non-inter%ention/
honoured $ore in the breech than not8… It is also the alibi forC
- 3ato bo$bin" ca$pai"ns
- strate"ic and selecti%e use of hu$an ri"hts as forei"n policy le%er
- $appin" li%ed worlds as #erra 3ullis and for"ettin" the co-habitation that is the
character of the planet
- the idea of Duropean e(ceptionalis$ which i"nores the co-constitution of that
pri%ile"e with the plunder that was colonialis$
While it $ay once ha%e been i$portant to publicly a"itate for relati%is$/ a"ainst
ethnocentric pre?udice and for cultural tolerance/ this $ay now so$eti$es see$
proble$atic8 #he criti<ues $ade in the na$e of relati%is$/ anti-ethnocentris$ and
$ulticulturalis$/ when $ade within the pro"ra$$e of capitalis$ as the one and
only alternati%e Fi8e8/ there is no alternati%eE appear as little $ore than the
ideolo"ical rationalisations of either the blind or the established syste$9s $ost
cynical apolo"ists8
43


". <lifford, Routes2 tra9el and translation in the late twentieth centur#, <amridge, Mass.,
Har9ard Hni9ersit# =ress, *++/.
Sla%o? QiBek writes of =the $ulticulturalist9s respect for the 'ther9s
specificity MasN the %ery for$ of assertin" one9s own superiority98 QiBek9s ar"u$ent
is that a $entality that =tolerates the 'ther in so far as it is not the real 'ther/ but the
aseptic 'ther of pre$odern ecolo"ical wisdo$/ fascinatin" rites/ and so on9 has
been one that we can so$eti$es reco"nise in anthropolo"y9s history8
GG
Is it really
the case that the best that can be offered is the reco"nition of Fa ri"ht toE difference;
#olerance is not $uch if we start fro$ a de"ree of ine<uality hitherto e<ui%alent to
the worst hu$anity has de%ised8 !s QiBek $akes clear/ reco"nition and tolerance of
difference i$plies a %alidated notion of the nor$/ of the centre8 #he centre holds
insofar as difference $aintains or reinstates the %ery "a$e of power that needs to be
undone8 ifference/ in conte$porary ti$es/ is the tolerant soft centre of white
supre$acy8 So $y ar"u$ent will be that we need to look to specificities and conte(t
if we are to $ake sense of the role of difference88
D%en as we reco"nise that differences are constructed:and not only in the
local situation in which they are for$ed:we still ha%e not left the historical conte(t
where the notion of separate =cultures/ or =societies9 ha%e always been the $ainstay
of bounded ethno"raphic studies8 ! UK "o%ern$ent de%elop$ent a"ency
Fepart$ent for International e%elop$entE ?ob ad%ertise$ent callin" for
anthropolo"y "raduates $i"ht be offered as e%idence in the neo-i$perial theatre that
e%en after this intense period of =criti<ue9/ bounded notions of culture operate
institutionally in curricula/ the canon/ and in the $akin" of all sorts of
=anthropolo"ically enhanced9 careers8
Which leads $e to think of the latest theoretical fold that see$s to ha%e
captured attention in the social sciences8 Hybridity as a counter to $onoculture8
Hooray8 Here/ boundedness/ upon which separateness and differences are founded/
is <uestioned8 In place of sal%a"e or e%en a co$plicit anti-Durocentris$ or ro$antic
resistance of the old type/ we now also see the celebration of the i$pure/ hybridity
and $i(/ $ultiplicity and ?oy8 #his is taken to be counter to capitalis$/ hybridity is a
chance perhaps to escape the interstices of the $arket and its lo"ic/ to offer
$o$ents of respite fro$ the $onolith8
How far ha%e we co$e since the representational proble$s of )76); I will
only note that the docu$entation of deconte(tualised =incon"ruous detail9 that
fascinates conte$porary writers still re<uires a strict $aintenance of a boundary
between =us9 and otherness:a trans"ression of an otherwise pristine difference by
co$$unication across its boundary8 #he celebration of hybridity and $i(ture still
i$plies an undifferentiated notion of the pure/ an affir$ation of the nor$8 ifference
feeds the sa$e lo"ic8
Today2 the racist alibi transmutes into a culturalist one) The right to difference
44


S. RiKek, The Ticklish SuAect, @ondon, ?erso, *+++.
leads to apartheid and the camps2 4ortress Europe and the ghetto)
!t that $eetin" of the Dthnolo"ical Society and the !nthropolo"ical Society o%er a
century a"o/ the <uestion of difference was couched in ter$s of race and it was
already in process of bein" trans$uted:and this was the pro"ressi%e side of the
ar"u$ent:into a re"ister of lan"ua"e8 Colour was bein" coded into $eanin"8 I
think the sa$e has been "oin" on in conte$porary discussions of culture8
!nyone witnessin" the current cultural acade$ic focus on race has to note the new
way race is bein" talked about/ as thou"h it were in no way linked to a "ap
between attitudes and actions8 #here is e%en a new ter$inolo"y 888 words like
other and difference are takin" place of co$$only known words that are
dee$ed uncool or to si$plistic like oppression/ e(ploitation and do$ination8
G5
#oday/ the racist alibi trans$utes into a culturalist one/ but the politics is ?ust as
dan"erous8 Co$placency troops in with difference where the disco$fortin" and
difficult ter$inolo"ies of e(ploitation are occluded8
I think the debate in )76) was key/ if peripheral to the colonial pro?ect8
#oday we should be wary of the role of difference in the 3ew World 'rder8 !s
Gayatri Spi%ak notesC =Ruestions of difference … are of course the by-product of
i$perialis$98
GA
#he deploy$ent of hu$anitarian ar$ed inter%ention in %arious
=trouble spots9 has probably as $uch to do with inter-i$perialist ri%alries as it does
with fillin" the publicity re<uire$ents of political fi"ures in per$anent press-
conference $ode but with no idea of what to do about do$estic crisis8 2ut e%en an
anthropolo"y less interested in do$estic politics could askC why 3ato rather than the
U3 as the %ehicle for "lobal policin"; Why !ustralia rather than the US as re"ional
South Dast !sian superpower; F!ustralia has less to lose by offendin" China/ its
interests in #i$or Gap oil reser%es outwei"h any hu$anitarian credentials it $ay
stri%e for8E #here could be further e(a$ples8 #he point isC we cannot let this $eetin"
i"nore these $atters8
#hin"s will see$ $ore ur"ent if we consider the rhetoric of hu$an ri"hts as
$outhed by those that are at the sa$e ti$e the $ost enthusiastic suppliers of
$ilitary hardware and related "oods to third world "o%ern$ents:I ha%e in $ind the
sales branches of the $ilitary-industrial co$ple(/ otherwise known as the
epart$ents of efence of the US!/ UK/ @rance/ e%en !ustralia/ which we see on
display at @arnborou"h or !IDP and the like8 #hey happily listen to ,& &ahathir
of &alaysia talk of =!sian %alues9 and the =!sian way9:an alibi for suppression of
45


. hooks, 5earning2 race, gender and cultural %olitics, San Francisco, Southend =ress,
*++-, %. :-.
46


3.<. S%i9ak, $ criti>ue of %ostcolonial reason, <amridge, Mass., Har9ard Hni9ersit# =ress,
*+++, %. /(n.
dissent8 ! suppression ar$ed with Harrier ?ets and weaponry $anufactured ri"ht
here in the UK8 !s the trade $issions facilitate the super-e(traction of profit %ia
third world direct in%est$ent/ the Go%ern$ent diplo$atic co$$issars/ no doubt
with cultural eti<uette ad%isors/ possibly trained in anthropolo"y/ are s$oothin" the
way8
Here/ would it be too biBarre to i$a"ine that the ri"ht to be different alibis
differential $odes of e(ploitation which offer the econo$ic bedrock for profitability
and recoup$ent of in%est$ent otherwise i$possible in the $etropolitan Centre;
Clearly/ without the rhetoric of de%elop$ent/ and its corollary puppet show of
hu$an ri"hts/ there would be no ?ustification for this $ode of e(pansionary
capitalis$ in the first place8 #hat difference articulates the hierarchy seen in
de%elop$ent is clear8 #he lo"ic of the &arshall plan leads ine(orably to ar$s sales
to Suharto/ etc8
The museumification of ethnic difference is undesirable
Gi%en the abo%e conte(tualisation/ isn9t ri"hts talk on behalf of =different9 fourth-
worlders another $ode of %entrilo<uy/ where certain folks in feathers speak in a
li$ited and restricti%e code the words suitable for U3-sponsored fora/ but can be
head to say nothin" $ore than scripted =representati%e9 code;
Jentrilo<uy can be seen acted out in the institutions that e$brace difference8
Here all $anner of certified and <ualified e(perts speak on behalf of the people/
fro$ which they the$sel%es $ay or $ay not co$e as dele"ates or representati%es8
#he whole proble$atic of representation and dele"ation Frecallable; elected;E could
occupy a lon" aside8 It is enou"h to note the e(plosion of non-"o%ern$ent foru$s
appro%ed in upper circles8
3ationalis$s are based upon floatin" differences/ as are all culturalis$s8
#hese are now supported by a U3 conference circuit of 3G's which do not reflect
the condition of 3G's =on the "round9 and which are stocked full of publicity-
conscious/ well-intentioned/ so$eti$es =nati%e9 acti%ist entrepreneurs speakin"
social theory and ad%anced lit-crit8 !ll this is no reason to think that difference
transcends i$perialis$8
#he cultural sites of difference/ as they appear in anthropolo"ical debates/ are
cau"ht in a lo"ic of contain$ent in which such differences are $ade $ute/ spoken
for/ le"islated for/ planned/ but ne%er autono$ous or =different98 #his is another
code of inscription in the lon" line that includes pri$iti%e/ sa%a"e/ other/ indi"enous/
fuBBy-wuBBy and heathen8 #he different are not us/ and are always without a"ency8
Instead of the i"norant bene%olence that would le"islate in absentia and in
ad%ance on their behalf/ what $echanis$s/ what habits of thou"ht or styles of
co$$unication:e%en of dialo"ue:$i"ht we de%ise so as to facilitate the co-
operati%e/ asserti%e autono$y of the people ad%ocated for8 'r are we always $ore
interested in a faked %entrilo<uy act;
Difference as a right is a trick2 a deception which cannot lead to anything like
freedom
!t best difference is trans"ressi%e8 If difference/ as I ar"ue/ is defined fro$ the
pri%ile"ed space of the nor$/ then surely a ri"ht to difference is only an
in?unctionL?ustification to break the rules of the nor$al/ of the $ainstrea$/ of the
dreaded uni%ersal $onoculture/ of polite society8 Great8 ,erhaps this should be
supported/ since it can entail a counter-he"e$ony to the rules society Fdo not
s$oke/ do not lust/ don9t think/ don9t walk on the "rassE/ a trans"ression of the
code/ resistance8 2ut there $ay be a difficulty where this authorised and
representati%e difference-resistance is based on the %ery code it wants to trans"ress8
&apitalism thri+es on difference
oes difference constitute a new authenticity; !re we talkin" of that difference
which is the sales brochure of the tra%el industry pro$isin" a %isit to re$ote and
traditional locals whose photo"enic =different culture9 will fill albu$s and %ideo
cassettes; Indeed/ difference here plays ri"ht into the hands of a $ode of fle(ible/
$ultiple/ hybridisin" capital that thri%es on differences:of a certain type8 #he
$arket place is/ by definition/ based on differences $ade e<ui%alent8 Spi%ak writes
that =it is no secret that liberal $ulticulturalis$ is deter$ined by the de$ands of
conte$porary transnational capitalis$s8 It is an i$portant public relations $o%e98
G6
I be"an by speakin" of difference and transition8 I would further ar"ue that
the enthusias$ "i%en o%er in recent years to the "eneralised criti<ue of essentialis$
is a function of the failure of hetero"eneity to sur%i%e the co-opti%e pressures of
capitalist e(tension8 Here/ anti-essentialis$ ad$irably supports difference:indeed
difference is its call-si"n:but the proble$ is that it has been thus far wholly
inade<uate/ either as theoretical tool or or"anisin" principle/ to pose a challen"e to
the forces of transition8
5isibility 6a right to be seen as different7 is important2 but is not yet a politics
It is all well and "ood if we reco"nise that culture and hetero"eneity are a terrain of
the political8 2ut cultural production:one of the key foru$s for representation of
difference:is not in itself a politics8 #he newly celebrated %isible difference of
second-"eneration South !sians in the UK is not yet enou"h of a politics8 &adonna
dons a bindi:that9s different/ sure8
G7
#here are $any/ $any anti-racists/ includin"
so$e anthropolo"ists:$ost I a$ sure:but can we confidently say that anti-racist
47


S%i9ak, o%. cit., %. (+/.
rallies or anti-racist anthropolo"y has pre%ented one racist $urder on the estates of
Dn"land; -et alone the on"oin" ad$inistration of racis$ in the undocu$ented =rest
of the world98 Who would be a"ainst culture; 3ot $e8 Howe%er/ culturalist
ar"u$ents and sy$pathies are not the sufficient ar$a$ents of an anti-capitalist
politics8
Ambi+alence2 contradiction
!s Richard Wilson has ar"ued/ difference is an incoherent ter$ if reified as a ri"ht8 I
think it is not $uch $ore than a ?ob creation pro"ra$$e for cultural co$$issars8 I
ha%e/ howe%er/ so$e further doubts and a$bi%alences8 ifference is of course a
relational ter$/ you can only be different fro$ so$eone or so$ethin" else8 #he
proble$ with this is that western or Duro-!$erican he"e$ony is nearly always
taken as the nor$ati%e/ and silently central/ ter$ in this relation/ fro$ which others
are different8
G+
ifference is a relational ter$ that is une%en/ that necessarily posits
the co$parati%e ori"in as nor$ati%e and une(a$ined8 ifference reified as a ri"ht
then conde$ns those thus declared as different to the second class8
-et us try to think of this in other ways8 ,erhaps the ri"ht to co$$unicate $y
difference would precede that difference in i$portance/ as without a capacity to
co$$unicate difference I cannot be different8 ifference is a relational ter$ that
i$plies a lar"er code8 It is e$bedded8 !s a part of a code of relations/ difference is a
kind of $ystical cate"ory8 It can ne%er be na$ed as such/ but can only be endlessly
deferred in iteration Fdifferin" fro$ Mthe nor$NE8 It is an infernal $achine that
articulates no content and no stability/ only shiftin" conte(ts and relations8 #hus it
$akes any political dia"nostic rather fra"ile8
So when I ar"ue that difference is pri$arily a ?ob creation pro"ra$$e/ I ha%e
in $ind the %iew that without the $ystic and fetishised reification of difference there
would be no 'ther to study/ and or e(ploit8 !nd %entrilo<uy thri%es here8
#o su$$ariseC difference is a relation/ not a property of any person/ "roup or
culture8 #reatin" difference as a ri"ht/ e%en as an e(a$ple of necessary e<ual ri"hts/
restitutes hierarchical for$ation in which the $a?ority then allows difference its
$ar"inal e(istence8 #he self-appro%in" liberalis$ that proclai$s this as a radical
cos$opolitan reco"nition worthy of pro"ressi%e chan"e/ proceeds to i"nore the
historical conse<uences of those factors:race/ class/ "ender/ i$perialis$:that
create difference in the first place8 #his is not a pro"ressi%e politics/ it is wilfully
48


For a criti>ue of MadonnaLs trading in cultural difference, see ?. Malra and ". Hutn#k,
“Frimful of agitation, authenticit# and a%%ro%riation2 MadonnaLs N$sian koolL!, =ostcolonial
Studies *'(), ((+.(&1, *++:.
49


See S. 4ugent, $maKonian caoclo societ#2 an essa# on in9isiilit# and %easant econom#,
O;ford, Ferg, *++(, %. &,.
blinkered thinkin"8 It is:to underline a key word in the $otion:a $ode of
funda$entalis$8
#he declaration of a ri"ht to be different is the re%erse of any ri"ht to e<uality8
#he declaration of a ri"ht of difference already assu$es non-differentiation/ a
unification with a centre of a"ree$ent fro$ where such a declaration can be $ade/
a"reed/ arbitrated/ enforced:and thus also assu$es an une<ual =different9/ which is
ne%er central e(cept throu"h bene%olent and tolerant/ liberal $unificence8 #he
arro"ant centrality of the space where the call for a ri"ht to difference $i"ht be
$ade is illo"ical8 #he differences it will call into ri"hteousness are inco$$ensurable
with the central consensus of that call8
'et the right to difference implies right to be the same) 6Actually2 here $ am
back to that old underlying assumption that anthropology will make2 we are all
human7)
#he ri"ht to be different is too often si$ply recruited to ri"hts within the one syste$/
and this soon $eans no ri"ht at all8 #he ri"ht to difference will then also restrict/ will
insist on Jewish occupation of the West 2ank and GaBa/ of !partheid and
-ebensrau$ for the Ger$an Jolk> and today it i$plies the %icious e(clusions of
@ortress Durope i$$i"ration policy and deportations/ the 'ne 3ation propa"anda of
,auline Hanson and the -iberal ,arty in !ustralia/ &ahathir9s =!sian %alues9 in
&alaysia as a cloak for totalitarian repression/ or the sa$e senti$ent in se%eral
Duropean states/ includin" the UK8 #he hideous pro"eny of relati%is$ plus
boundedness is fri"htful indeed8
'n the other hand/ surely the ri"ht to be different also i$plies the ri"ht to be
the sa$e:who would seriously deny today the ri"ht of the 2ororo to also "o
shoppin"; #he proble$ is one of their particularly inade<uate purchasin" power8 It
is of course a ?oke to think of parity in shoppin" for all8 2ut any reification of
difference is absolutely as absurd8
So what that lea%es us with is a #askC securin" benefits for a $yriad of
different "roups/ of se(ual/ "endered/ social/ political/ reli"ious and racial
differentiation8 What is i$portant here howe%er/ is not the differences of these
"roups/ but the si$ilarity of the stru""le for autono$y/ and the potential role of an
acti%ist anthropolo"y in such stru""les8
$nstead2 solidarities across differences8for a fighting anthropology
'n a public occasion such as this/ perhaps/ so$e of the usual restraints of
disciplinary protocol are rela(ed8 In such circu$stances I want to ar"ue for an
acti%ist anthropolo"y/ an anthropolo"y based not only on interpretation/ but also on
pra(is8 #he point is to chan"e it/ as ='ld 2eardo9 Uncle Karl ar"ued8 -et us not
stand by idly8
'f course we ha%e all learnt by now that anthropolo"ists are not "oin" to
chan"e the world all by the$sel%es/ and they do not e%en ha%e $uch prospect of
bein" the %an"uard of anythin" $uch/ but surely8888 It is ti$e now to lea%en that self-
obsession of )+71s anthro-te(tuality with so$e practical politics8 So$e will call this
idealist/ of course8 It9s late/ let $e say it anyway8
#hose people who are at the front end of transition/ facin" cultural/ econo$ic
and political incursions fro$ lar"er/ ra%enous/ capitalist plunder/ of course re<uire
inter%entions and support:but insistin" on their ri"ht to be different will not
achie%e what is re<uired8 !n effete anthropolo"y will not be enou"h:effete in the
sense that it $ouths fine words about people9s ri"hts and declares itself anti-racist8
#his operates only as a kind of public relations rhetoric/ ne%er ade<uate in the face
of what is needed8
If anthropolo"ists ha%e re$ained only the sad publicists of disappearin"
worlds/ then we ha%e done nothin" $ore than/ at best/ cheer at the sidelines of
"lobalisin" capital and/ at worst/ ha%e been incorporated into its $ultiply di%erse
ways of e(pandin" e%erywhere8 o we want a scenario where future students will
be answerin" essay <uestions which readC S=#urn of the $illenniu$ anthropolo"ists
were the hand$aidens of "lobalisation89 iscuss8T; I assu$e $ost will a"ree this is
not a "ood prospect8
!"ainst this/ the <uestion of how to or"anise politically in unity in difference
is already bein" answered within the necessary alliances for$ed in defensi%e
co$$unity stru""le8 2lack/ ethnic/ wo$en and identitarian "roupin"s are already in
for$ation and ha%e been for a lon" ti$e in the forefront of stru""les8 !d$ittedly/ of
course/ these always re$ain in dan"er of bein" derailed/ pacified/ bou"ht off/ or co-
opted in the face of the sectarian parasites who fa%our paralysis in ri"hteous correct
line obscurity/ rather than contributin" skills/ resources and or"anisational
e(perience to liberation:and who cannot rise to Capital9s <uicker adoption of the
rhetoric of $ultiplicity8
#he idea that difference is a hu$an ri"ht is of course hi"hly co$$endable8
#he "ood intentions of anyone who states this as a proposition $ust be applauded8
2ut in a conte$porary world/ e(a$ined with eyes alert to ro$antic e(oticisin" and
critical of the ideolo"ical role of nai%e appeals Fto "o%ern$ents and instru$ents
which $i"ht =enforce9 hu$an ri"htsE is this "ood intention "ood enou"h; 3o/ it is in
fact a trick/ a dan"er8 What will we achie%e if we sa%e the ri"ht to be different; Sure
enou"h/ it sounds "ood/ and there would be scope for future ethno"raphic work
e(plainin" this difference Fand thus helpin" do$esticate itE8 Howe%er/ $y $ain
ar"u$ent has been that if anthropolo"y and anthropolo"ists do not "i%e up this
astonishin"ly conser%ati%e role/ we are doo$ed and dis"raced8 #o conser%e
difference as such is not what I fear here> the conser%ati%e aspect lies in the way a
reference to hu$an ri"hts is happy to acco$$odate the status <uo8 !s if the hu$an
ri"hts declarations of 51-plus years a"o ha%e been politically/ culturally or $orally
sufficient to achie%e $uch at all8 What I ar"ue for is so$ethin" often i$plied in
anthropolo"ical work:co$$it$ent/ passion and a professional/ calculated and
ade<uate responsibility8 ! passion for difference and the $ultiplicity of the hu$an
possibility of bein" de$ands $uch $ore than elaborations of ri"hts and polite calls
on the U3 to enforce the$ with tanks8
What are the co-ordinates of such an anthropolo"y; Studyin" difference/
appreciatin" it/ e%en docu$entin" it as a hu$an ri"ht/ is not enou"h8 Indeed/ this
could e%en be considered counter producti%e insofar as it does nothin" to disrupt an
old di%ide between conser%ati%e docu$entors and those docu$ented8 Instead/ co-
operati%e collaborati%e and co-ordinated effort see$s the best possibility for an
acti%ist anthropolo"y:one that will not re-institute the e(pertLsub?ect hierarchy/ but
instead allocate e(pertise/ and so resources/ to the do$ain of acti%is$8 #his would
be a ca$pai"nin" anthropolo"y that will not be ?ust the polite liberal %ersion of
business-as-usual8
!n offensi%e/ in se%eral senses of the word/ anthropolo"y/ would not be
content with knowin" it had said the ri"ht thin"s/ $ade the correct lists of appro%ed
ri"hts Fri"ht to belief in (/ ri"ht to do this/ that and the other:but perhaps not (
ri"ht/ nor certainly the ri"ht to be different888E8 Without a political pro"ra$$e other
than the careerist one of furtherin" the disciplinary $o$entu$ of our culture-
%ulturis$ in the uni%ersity-teachin" factory/ there is nothin" but disaster in polite
calls for respect/ relati%is$/ ri"hts and diffidence8
So I would de$and that anthropolo"y be $ore than it has been/ and on this
basis ask you to %ote out the $otion8
PART * T!E DE9ATE
:icaela Di (eonardo 6#orthwestern 1ni+ersity7C I would like to speak in support
of the opposition/ but with a couple of ca%eats8 I ha%e four points to stress8 #he first
was $ade by the two opposition speakers and that is the necessity of the
historicisation of the rise of hu$an ri"hts lan"ua"e:a lan"ua"e of difference:in
the conte(t of colonialis$/ neo-colonialis$/ capitalist "rowth/ he"e$ony of neo-
liberalis$8 #hat MpointN was %ery well $ade8 Second point:a"ain/ %ery well $ade
:therefore the inherent class e%asions of $ulticultural ideolo"y8 In $ulticulturalis$
it is ob%ious/ certainly do$estically in wealthy states/ the way in which race "ets
collapsed into class8 In less wealthy states/ we see the ways in which there is a
focus on the indi"enous to the detri$ent of the so-called inauthentic shantytown
poor who do not ha%e so$e particular e(otic credentials8
2ut/ third point/ I disa"ree with Richard because I think we really should of
necessity accept/ at least contin"ently/ ele$ents of the Dnli"hten$ent pro?ect for
liberty/ egalit' and ha%e hopes for fraternity and sorority/ and thus I do dissent fro$
his e$phasis on Rorty and anti-foundationalis$8
@ourth point/ and I think this is really rather i$portant/ I would clai$ there is
a non-parallelis$ with "ender8 Issues of race/ culture/ nationality are really not at all
the sa$e as "ender:and I $i"ht note that se(ual orientation has not been
$entioned at all8 In the !$erican conte(t/ se(ual orientation is inherently a part of
discussions of difference8 Usually this is wron"ly so/ and that is the ar"u$ent I a$
"oin" to $akeC that "ender and se(uality or "ender and se(ual difference are not at
all the sa$e/ lo"ically speakin" or socially speakin"/ as race/ national identity and
cultural difference8 Gender/ se(uality and se(ual orientation are always intra-
population/ they are always present within any one population/ and therefore I think
:althou"h we are always drawn to these e(traordinary cases/ as in the case of
"enital $utilation:that they should not be a part of the sa$e debate8 It is an
artefact of the "rowth of identity politics to assu$e that these differences are of the
sa$e sort $erely because we "loss the$ today as difference8 #hey are part of an
i$portant debate/ but not this one8 #hank you8
:ichael 9ra+o 61ni+ersity of :anchester7C I would ha%e hoped to ha%e heard
$ore about the nature of what is a ri"ht8 2ecause it see$s to $e the $otion depends
on that %ery concept and/ in defendin" a ri"ht/ one then/ accordin" to one school of
thou"ht/ has to e(plain what one $eans by a %irtue and what kinds of obli"ations
ri"hts entail8 So I would like to su""est that I suppose a ri"ht has to be so$ethin"
that you defend whether it produces "ood or bad8 'r one has to be prepared that it
can produce "ood as well as bad8 In which case it see$s to $e that instru$ental
ar"u$ents which say that ri"ht of difference $ay be producti%e and produce either
"ood or bad ulti$ately cannot shed $uch li"ht on the case as to whether difference
is a funda$ental ri"ht8 ,recisely because "ood or bad is not "oin" to ?ustify or
ne"ate the %alue of a ri"ht8
/eanette Edwards 61ni+ersity of :anchester7C I would like to push the opposers
of this $otion a little further on two theorists who$ they $entionedC 2rian #urner
and Rorty:who are/ I ha%e to say/ $y least fa%ourite theorists for different reasons8
2rian #urner was used to support an ar"u$ent that there is a di%ersity of
e(periences of $odernity and this $ay well be the case/ but people are ne%ertheless
positioned differently and une<ually in relation to it8 !s far as Rorty is concerned/
he $i"ht well ha%e said that social research is now i"norin" po%erty and does not "o
into trailer parks/ as it were/ but the point is that there is a "reat deal of i$portant
social research in areas of hi"h depri%ation8
Richard WilsonC 3ot by difference $ulticulturalists8 #hat9s the point8
/eanette EdwardsC I see8 'K8 #he last person who you <uoted that I9d like to push
you on is Spi%ak/ who is actually $uch $ore fa%oured than Rorty and #urner8 #he
ar"u$ent is that the <uestion of difference is a by-product of colonialis$ and I
would like to ask you if you belie%e that to be the case;
/ohn Gledhill 61ni+ersity of :anchester7C I was "oin" "reat "uns with Richard
until he "ot to Rorty8 Rorty9s book is outra"eous8 We saw the proble$s within the
US and that is all ri"ht8 I do think that e%en the $ulticulturists9 notion of difference
has a criti<ue which is i$portant here8 &y bi" proble$ here is with the "eneralised
notion of difference which I think Iris brou"ht out rather well/ actually in $akin" a
series of ar"u$ents that $ade $e support Richard and John rather $ore8 2ut it is
this sort of diffuseness and "enerality that the notion of differenceC it co%ers too
$any thin"s8 I a$ sorry/ but if you are "oin" to "o for difference in its radical sense
then you ha%e to ha%e fascis$ and e%erythin" else8
I think why Richard was on "ood "rounds in distin"uishin" the le"al fro$ the
<uestion of hu$an di"nity is actually one of the bi" political stickin" points here8
espite $y own criti<ues of certain kinds of indi"enous identity politics/ it clearly is
necessary for these ne"ati%e cate"ories to ha%e identities in order to produce the
kinds of social consensus that $ake hu$an di"nity an achie%able thin"8 ifference
is a product of relations of force and if you are "oin" to break it down you ha%e to
attack the whole structure of the relations of force that produce it/ which in%ol%es
addressin" people who cannot "i%e the$sel%es an identity8 !nd that $eans that
e%ery case is a <uestion of political contin"ency and based on an analysis and/ in
that sense/ John9s ar"u$ent for acti%is$ is a correct one/ but it always has to be a
conte(tualised acti%is$8 !nd it always has to be a conte(tualised acti%is$ which is
located in the whole field of force that is in%ol%in" this8 'ne is "oin" to ha%e to Fand
this is the one point on which I would a"ree with RortyE look for piece$eal
consensual kinds of solutions in particular/ concrete/ historical situations/ which
ad%ance the di"nity of lar"e nu$bers of hu$an bein"s and the di"nity of their for$
of life in a holistic sense a"ainst the %ery powerful8
:ar;a Paula 4erretti 61ni+ersity of :anchester7C I want to ask Stephen Corry
about what he said concernin" the practice of fe$ale circu$cision:that it is
barbaric/ but difficult to criticise8 3ow/ when you say barbaric/ I think it is difficult
to <ualify barbaric unless you think it is a ?ud"e$ent of %alue8 So when you say that/
do you think you are sayin" that the co$$on hu$anity that belon"s to this wo$an
who accepts circu$cision re<uires the$ to be circu$cised/ whilst wo$en in our
society do not need that for their hu$anity; 'r in other ter$s/ is it a specific culture
that we need/ or is it that we need so$e sort of cultural practice in order to be
hu$an;
0aren "ykes 61ni+ersity of :anchester7C I a"ree with both Iris and John that in
no circu$stances would anyone in this roo$ want to support the notion of cultural
deter$inis$ as a stereotype which has been fostered upon us8 I su""est instead that
we consider whether the clai$ that the ri"ht to difference is a funda$ental hu$an
ri"ht is one that can be answered by cultural anthropolo"y8
I would like to sub$it new e%idence8 In the case of the !$erican courtroo$/
it is possible to $ake an ar"u$ent on a cultural ri"ht/ or on the sub$ission of
cultural e%idence or cultural defence in order to brin" forward new e%idence8 !n
i$portant point in that case is not that e%idence forecloses the decision but it $akes
possible further conte$plation of the case8 It $akes it possible to think whether
intention or forethou"ht were part of the deter$ination and that/ for e(a$ple/ helps
distin"uish between decisions about $anslau"hter in the first de"ree8
3ow if that Mcourtroo$N $odel is too narrow for us to think with here/ then
perhaps we can talk about what difference an ar"u$ent $akes8 &ore "enerally/ we
could say that/ if we are "oin" to ar"ue in fa%our of difference/ we pre%ent the ri"ht
to ar"ue in itself8 !nd if we are "oin" to ar"ue in fa%our of ar"u$ent/ we could say
that difference $akes it possible for us to reply in a different for$/ at a different
ti$e and perhaps later8 I thou"ht that John Hutnyk displayed that kind of
ar"u$ent %ery well because we know that so$eti$es we respond to ar"u$ents with
force8 !nd he in%oked the tank for us/ and in that sense I think he tricked hi$self/ as
I a$ not certain that anyone who has co$$itted the$sel%es to listenin" to an
ar"u$ent $ade differently is "oin" to i$$ediately pull back and e(pect that the
ar"u$ent $ade in ter$s of force or e$otion would not be heard8 3ow/ we are all
hearin" that in a for$ where we can set so$e barriers upon it and consider it in a
lon"-ter$ reasoned way8 !nd I really want to set forth the clai$ that the ri"ht to
difference is a funda$ental hu$an ri"ht8 If only because it $akes it necessary to
continue to deliberate what is "oin" on8 !nd we know how dan"erous it is to $ake
decisions based on force $uch too <uickly8
#igel Rapport 61ni+ersity of "t Andrews7C I would like to defend Richard Rorty/
but on the particular basis that he is the ha$$er of cultural relati%is$8 It was asked
rhetorically/ who is a"ainst the culture concept8 I a$ a"ainst the culture concept8
Rorty sou"ht a $eans of defendin" an Dnli"hten$ent pro?ect on pra"$atic bases8
What he asks is how to establish a procedural ?ustice below the le%el of cultural
clubs/ as he puts it/ below the le%el of the biBarre and the baBaar of cultural
difference and that le%el of procedural ?ustice will both preser%e cultural difference
and say =only so far98 It will both preser%e cultural difference and re"ulate it8 It will
say cultural difference cannot "o as far to say that twins are not hu$an/ or that
fe$ale circu$cision is necessary to $ake wo$en hu$an8 It says that these
state$ents are ?ust plain wron"/ that they are rhetorics8 Rhetoric can be useful for
$aintainin" internal/ cultural solidarity/ but it has no place in the political or the
le"al institutions of a liberal state8 It see$s to $e that to %ote for the opposition is
not a clai$ that all should beco$e like us8 !ll are like us to be"in with8 #hat is why
we are anthropolo"ists8 #hat is why we know what our sub?ect $atter is8 #o %ote for
the opposition is to %ote for the re"ulation of difference and to say so$ethin" like
this/ at least in $y esti$ationC that you can differentiate yourself culturally/
indi%idually/ as $uch as you like/ but do not try and i$pose your cultural $yths on
other people like children or wo$en/ or people that are not able to define
the$sel%es8
(oren<o &a=>s9ottos 61ni+ersity of :anchester7C Just a brief co$$ent on
Rapport9s last co$$ent8 Ha%e not all of us been i$posed Mon byN a culture;
#ikki 9rookes 61ni+ersity of :anchester7C I want to respond to the idea of
ha%in" a culture i$posed on you and the ri"ht to be different8 #he fact is that the
le"al institutions and schools in this society already i$pose a particular identity and
position and that is not looked at8 It is seen as neutral and it is not neutral8 ,eople
should ha%e the ri"ht to be different and should be able to self-identify8 #hat should
then infiltrate into the institutions and that actually does not e%er happen8
Penny !ar+ey 61ni+ersity of :anchester7C I started off bein" in a"ree$ent with
John because I really like his point about capital celebratin" hybridity and this "reat
ability of capital to absorb criti<ue as difference8 In that sense/ difference
under$ines criti<ue and to that e(tent I a$ with you8 2ut if difference under$ines
criti<ue it see$s to $e that you are sayin" that this is the wron" way to do politics8
#he debate ended for $e on the <uestion of which is the ri"ht way to do politics8 I
think then we can decide with our %ote what is "oin" to be the $ost efficacious or
pro"ressi%e politics8 If it is "oin" to be pro"ressi%e/ what is the pro"ress towards;
Which is where Stephen really started8 So I was struck by the fact that the unspoken
plea fro$ both sides is that we should act/ that action is the $ost i$portant thin"8
2oth sides told us not to stand idly by8 If action is "oin" to be anthropolo"ists9 key
responsibility/ then that takes $e back onto the other side because I cannot see how
we can act without so$e kind of co$$it$ent to difference8
Tim $ngold 61ni+ersity of Aberdeen7C I a$ confused at this point e(actly as to
what difference is8 @irst of all/ there is a tendency to talk about differences as if they
were properties8 I do not see how you can ha%e difference unless you are bein"
co$parati%e8 Hou $ust be $akin" a ?ud"e$ent of one thin" as a"ainst another/
which $eans that there $ust be so$e for$ of co$parati%e relationality built into it8
#he proble$ with what I think is a he"e$onic discourse at the $o$ent is that it
renders difference as di%ersity8 In the standard cultural relati%ist position/ difference
was cultural di%ersity and di%ersity $eant that there were "roups of people that had
certain properties which were different8 #he $odel for this was species di%ersity and
cultural di%ersity was $odelled on biodi%ersity8
&y worry about the $otion is that hu$an ri"hts discourse renders difference
as di%ersity because of the nature of ri"hts discourse itself8 I think what we are
stri%in" for anthropolo"ically is a different way of articulatin" what our
understandin" of difference is8 We should render difference as positionality rather
than as di%ersity and see what the conse<uences of that kind of relational
understandin" of difference $i"ht be8 Hou are different because of where you stand
within a certain structure of relationships8 What the conse<uences of that would be
for the le"al position/ I do not know because I ha%e not thou"ht it out and it is an
i$$ensely co$plicated issue/ but I think that is the <uestion we need to ask8
"arah Green 61ni+ersity of :anchester7C #here see$s to be an i$plication/ on
the one hand/ that a lot of this has to do with the ways in which laws operate or fail
to operate8 #he underlyin" i$plication of one side of the debate is that the powers
that be do %ery unpleasant thin"s to people who are different> therefore they need to
be stopped8 #here ou"ht to be a law to stop the$ fro$ doin" it8 'r/ the powers that
be do %ery nasty thin"s to people who are different/ and they also control the laws:
so there is no point ha%in" a law a"ainst it8 #hat debate is %ery fa$iliar to $e fro$
the debates that were "oin" on in the late )+61s about porno"raphy and censorship8
#hat is one point8
#he other point/ to add to &icaela/ is that it is true that "ender and se(uality
are different cate"ories of thin"8 2ut the reason why they "et blended in to"ether is
precisely because of the kinds of co$$entaries that we ha%e been hearin" here that
occasionally include wo$en8 So it needs to be reco"nised that these thin"s are
different/ e%en if perhaps they need to be discussed to"ether precisely because these
differences are treated as the sa$e8
0oen "troeken 6&atholic 1ni+ersity of (eu+en2 9elgium7C I do not know who I
a$ addressin"/ nor on which side I find $yself/ but I noted a few thin"s down8 #he
<uestion is typically anthropolo"ical/ in the way both parties were presentin" their
ar"u$ents and buildin" the$ up8 It see$ed that they were o%er-esti$atin" the
i$portance of hu$an ri"hts in relation to social practice8 'ne side hopes that ri"hts
will chan"e thin"s/ will pre%ent oppression of $inorities8 I think it is an absurd idea
that hu$an ri"hts could lead to this8 #he other side is con%inced that hu$an ri"hts
essentialise identity and obstruct indi"enous alliances and lead to all kinds of
escalations of social practice8 I do not think this is "ood anthropolo"y8 &ultiply as
$any rules as you want:the application of the$ is ne"otiable8
I thou"ht the last speaker was %ery con%incin"8 2ut/ on the other hand/ the
best way to $aintain this ,R faUade is of course by opposin" it and by ?oinin" in
these types of discussions8 So I think that ca$pai"nin" a"ainst it will not chan"e the
,R faUade either8 If I ha%e been con%inced of anythin" it is to e(ercise $y ri"ht:
the oldest ri"ht and one which is cherished by anthropolo"ists:the ri"ht to abstain
fro$ %otin"8
/udith %kley 61ni+ersity of !ull7C So$ebody said that the lan"ua"e of
$ulticulturalis$C was e(ported fro$ !$erica and there see$ed to be a confusion of
$ulticulturalis$ within one person and $ulticulturalis$ between different
indi%iduals8 I would like to support the idea of difference/ as opposed to culture/
because we are also drawn into the ri"ht of so$ebody to dissent a"ainst their
culture8 What people ha%e not brou"ht up is that there are plenty of wo$en within a
culture who refuse to support the practice of fe$ale infanticide:or whate%er the
dreadful word is8 @or a @reudian reason I ha%e e%en for"otten what the word is at
this $o$ent8 2ut you know what I $eanI
Peter WadeC I will now "i%e each of the speakers three or four $inutes to $ake
responses or su$$arise their position8
"tephen &orryC Unlike/ I suspect/ $ost people in this roo$/ I a$ not an
anthropolo"ist or e%en a scholar and I a$ not concerned with the de%elop$ent of
anthropolo"ical theory8 &y concern is/ and has been/ e(clusi%ely with what
threatened tribal peoples are the$sel%es actually sayin"8 I do not $ean the people
who necessarily $ake it to Gene%a and who are unelected representati%es:or
whate%er you would like to call the$:but the people who are actually in the fieldC
old people/ youn" people/ wo$en/ $en:the whole lot of the$8 #here is actually
<uite a lot of unifor$ity about what threatened tribal peoples are sayin" in the world
today8 Ruite a lot has been $ade of the le"al institutions of liberal states8 Well/ of
course/ $ost of the people I a$ talkin" about do not li%e in liberal states8 #he courts
are not a place to which they "o to for ?ustice8 I a$ deli"hted to hear that the
Guate$alan police are now doin" such a wonderful ?ob in sa%in" the poor cri$inals8
#hey certainly were not doin" so o%er the last few decades8
'n the other hand/ hu$an ri"hts can be a weapon8 3o/ you cannot "o to court
in a lot of these countries and clai$ your ri"hts are bein" infrin"ed8 2ut people like
Sur%i%al International can "o to the public in Durope and 3orth !$erica and
co$plain about what Duropean and 3orth !$erican/ and for that $atter/ Japanese
co$panies are doin" to so$e of these people8 So the definition of ri"hts is/ in that
sense/ useful8 Hes/ of course/ hu$an ri"hts are used in $ilitary inter%entionC the
ter$ has been used as an e(tension of i$perialis$:but so for that $atter has
%irtually e%ery other ideolo"y you care to na$e8 So I do not think that is particularly
rele%ant8
#he $otion refers to funda$ental hu$an ri"hts8 I think there is a difference
between what is in the U3 eclaration of Hu$an Ri"hts and what we $i"ht call
funda$ental hu$an ri"hts which are not %ery usefully written down anywhere8
@inally/ <uite a lot has been brou"ht up on fe$ale circu$cision8 I was talkin"
about one particular placeC the -oita Hills in Kenya:where &asai people li%e8 I
was unable to criticise it because all the wo$en that talked:not to $e actually/ but
to $y wife:when I was there/ did not criticise it or want to stop it8 I a$ si$ply
sayin" what they said8 Indeed/ when it co$es to killin" new born twins/ that is what
the people the$sel%es say8 'b%iously it is not what the new born twins would say/ if
they were allowed to "row up8
Richard Wilson. I want to confront so$e of the historical re%isionis$ which had
been "oin" on/ particularly the idea that the 3aBis killed for ho$o"eneity and
unifor$ity and thereby for uni%ersal %alues and ci%ilisation8 #he 3aBis killed for
particularis$8 #here are two traditions hereC there is Ger$an ro$anticis$ upholdin"
difference and there are @rench and !$erican uni%ersal %alues based on e<uality8
3ow you ha%e a choiceC difference or e<uality8 #here is no $iddle "round and I a$
ar"uin" for e<uality8 -ook at the history of the last fifty years/ startin" with the
Holocaust a"ainst the Jews> the acti%ities of Serb nationalists/ ar"uin" for the self-
deter$ination of peoples> $ore recently in 3orthern Ireland you had inter%iews with
$e$bers of the 'ran"e order/ sayin" it was their cultural ri"ht to parade throu"h
Catholic areas8 #his is the way in which this lan"ua"e of culture and difference has
been seiBed by ethno-nationalists/ especially in the last ten years8 Hou ha%e to be
deaf/ du$b and blind not to understand the present historical conte(t of this %enal
and heinous lan"ua"e of difference8
#hat was the ne"ati%e bit8 3ow co$es the positi%e bit8 We ha%e a positi%e
e(a$ple in non-racial for$s of e<uality and politics:that is/ South !frica since
)++58 #here has not been racial bloodshed and re%en"e at the le%el of the apartheid
state8 In fact/ it has been contained because of the lan"ua"e of e<uality8 3elson
&andela:to oppose the words of $y estee$ed collea"ue:was not a %andal8 In
fact/ he was the first !frican/ alon" with 'li%er #a$bo/ to beco$e a lawyer in
Ro$an-utch law8 #hat was %ery i$portant in )+51-5)8 He was an ad%ocate of
!fricans9 ri"hts for !fricans8 He was in%ol%ed in the draftin" of the @reedo$
Charter/ based upon e<uality8 When apartheid finally cru$bled/ the !3C sou"ht to
achie%e a better life for !fricans:and not on the "rounds of difference because that
was the lan"ua"e of apartheid8 @ro$ )+G7 until )++G there was the euphe$isation of
race in ter$s of cultural difference8 #he national party left behind the scientific
racis$ of the early twentieth century in South !frica and adopted the lan"ua"e of
cultural difference to ?ustify racial hierarchy8 In opposition to that/ the South !frican
"o%ern$ent since )++G/ and the !3C in particular/ ha%e eschewed the lan"ua"e of
apartheid/ the lan"ua"e of difference/ in fa%our of e<uality:and so should we8
3ow/ I a$ not <uestionin" at all the intentions of $y estee$ed collea"ues8 I
a$ not callin" the$ 3aBis or ethno-nationalists8 I think we are tryin" to "et to the
sa$e "oal/ which is the end of cruelty/ se%ere ill-treat$ent/ hu$iliation and
"enocide of peoples8 #here is a %ery recent e(a$ple of the endin" of one for$ of
hu$iliation of "ays in the ar$ed forces in the United Kin"do$8 #he Duropean Court
of Hu$an Ri"hts upheld the ri"hts of "ays who had been thrown out of the ar$ed
forces8 3ot on the ri"ht to be different/ not on the ri"ht to be "ay/ but on their ri"ht
to pri%acyC an e<ual ri"ht8 'n the "rounds of e<uality not on the "rounds of
difference8
$ris /ean0leinC I will be"in by thankin" #i$ In"old for so concisely and
elo<uently su$$in" up what I was tryin" to say8 I was not ar"uin" for any particular
set of differences:and that is precisely what e%eryone has done8 I was ar"uin" for
doin" difference/ per se/ and that would include ar"u$ent about the sorts of
differences we a"ree and disa"ree o%er8 i%ersity/ you M#i$N are <uite ri"ht/ can be
enu$eratedC it is a historically %ery entrenched understandin" of difference8
,articularis$/ which I also spoke a"ainst/ is another such understandin" and the
opposition has a"ain/ in its su$$ary/ ?ust now in%oked it8 ,articularis$ in%ol%es a
hierarchical arran"e$ent/ a centre/ a $ar"in and all of that/ which difference/ as I
was tryin" to "et us re-i$a"ine it/ would not include8 #he responses fro$ the floor
ha%e illustrated how difficult it is to reshape an entrenched lan"ua"e8 #his is
presu$ably why so$e of our collea"ues rein%ent lan"ua"e and co$e up with new
?ar"on all the ti$e8 It is because words are loaded with historically accu$ulated
assu$ptions8 #hat was the first thin"8
Second/ I would like to respond to &icaela/ in particular/ where a"ain I feel
$isunderstood8 She said that issues of race/ cultural difference and nationality:
none of which I $entioned/ by the way:are not like "ender and se(uality8 She
ar"ued that they are different differences8 I a"ree/ precisely8 #hey are not different
thin"s/ you are sayin"/ they are different differences8 #his particular set is the one
that always co$es to $ind8 #o $y surprise/ as a Ger$an/ Canadian/ Israeli and
whate%er else/ in this world class is constantly perfor$ed:and was today:by the
opposition8 #o $uch effect/ I think/ today8 2ut it is ne%er actually %erbalised and
$entioned as a %ery salient difference in this particular ti$e-space/ in any e%ent8 So
I was not actually ?u(taposin" kinds of differences8 I was co$parin" two different
pro?ects that both political and ha%e in%ited scholarly in%ol%e$entC fe$inis$ and
the hu$an ri"hts discourse8 2oth of the$ ha%e stru""led with difference8 @e$inis$
did it before the hu$an ri"hts debates8 We could look towards this field to learn and
not to fall into the sa$e traps8 #hat is what I a$ basically sayin"8
#hird/ ,rofessor 3i"el Rapport8 #o %ote for the opposition is to %ote for
re"ulation8 I disa"ree8 I e$phasise:and that $uch I ha%e said about the nature of
ri"hts:that a ri"ht is a choice/ an option8 It offers an option such that if I ha%e a
need for it/ I can in%oke it and $ake it work for $e8 It does not obli"e $e to do
anythin"8 I ha%e a ri"ht to property> but no-one9s "i%in" $e any…8
!nd ?ust a $inor ethno"raphic detail/ but I think it is i$portant8 Infibulation is
the word for fe$ale circu$cision:and indi"enous ter$s prefer e(cision8 #o $ake
wo$en hu$an; 3o/ it is to $ake hu$ans wo$en/ and $en8 #hey are also
procedures to $ake $en that we do not focus on %ery often8 !ll hu$ans need to be
worked on in this particular $oral order:to use a ter$ Richard Wilson uses in his
writin"s:in order to produce "ender and it takes "ender differences to be
producti%e on $any le%els8
I would like to respond to Judith 'kley8 #here are these days/ certainly/
disa"ree$ents fro$ within/ as we sayC wo$en who ob?ect to this practice8 3otably a
debate is ra"in" in @rance/ where the practice of infibulation has been le"islated
a"ainst8 It is sub%ersi%ely carried out by older wo$en of particular cultural ethnic
back"rounds and youn" wo$en now turn to the law to actually ha%e their own
parents restrained and not ha%e it done to the$8 I would say the ri"ht to difference
precisely includes that sort of differin" and includes the pri%ile"e of reconsiderin"
cultural:or whate%er we call the$:%alues/ ways of beco$in" $en and wo$en/
and opt for other thin"s8 2ut I would like to side with 2ir"it &cCon%ille/ who wrote
about infibulation in The 2nde-endent in )++68
51
She %isited and spoke to wo$en
who insisted on ha%in" it done to the$/ or else they would not be wo$en/ would not
be fertile and so on8 #hese were youn"er wo$en li%in" outside/ in @rance in a
Duropean conte(t/ ha%in" been e(posed to other ways of beco$in" wo$en and so
on8 She saidC =It beca$e clear to $e that e(cision will only chan"e and cease when
!frican wo$en want it to chan"e/ and $o%e for it89 I would also like to correct the
$isconception that infibulation is a $ale conspiracy and that wo$en are the only
ones who suffer8 Dthno"raphy a"ain:and I ha%e in $ind S$adar -a%ie9s
ethno"raphy of &Bani 2edouins which is sensiti%e about listin" the i$plications for
$en of all this:shows us that both $en and wo$en suffer fro$ it/ but would not do
away with it and dee$ it necessary8
5)
&en these days are "oin" into therapy to deal
with the trau$a it is for the$ to atte$pt to ha%e se(ual intercourse with an
infibulated wo$an8 It is not easy for $en either8 It could be a $ale conspiracy/ but
one has to ask oneselfC who is "ainin"; !nd certain ar"u$ents for and a"ainst
difference do not pose that sort of <uestion at all8 #here is always a conspiracy and
it is always political and centred:and usually in the US8
I would like to conclude with ,enny Har%ey9s words8 I could not ha%e put it
$ore beautifully8 We need to act/ but if we want to act we need to retain the ri"ht to
difference8 #o differ with each other as we do here/ in these debates/ and to differ
out there8 !nd to accept differences within cultures and let the$ loose on each
other8
/ohn !utnykC I will start with thankin" Iris for re$indin" us of/ and for a"ain
50


Firgit Mc<on9ille, The Inde%endent, (- Ma# *++/, %%. 1./, where she re%orts on the
%ractice of female circumcision and infiulation in $frica and among $frican refugees in Fritain
and France.
51


S. @a9ie, The %oetics of militar# occu%ation2 MKaina allegories of Fedouin identit# under
Israeli and Eg#%tian rule, Ferkele#, Hni9ersit# of <alifornia =ress, *++-.
underlinin"/ the word =class98 !nd for raisin" the issue of the ri"ht to ha%e property8
!t present it is ob%iously only so$e who are pri%ile"ed to ha%e access to property/
and people who ha%e property are ob%iously $arked in a particular class way in our
culture8 #his is not necessarily a situation with which we would always want to
abide8 !nd that would be the burden of $y ar"u$entC that we ha%e to do so$ethin"
$ore than describe and analyse thin"s8
I will try and answer so$e of the specific <uestions8 I will take up Jeanette9s
and &icaela9s <uestions by tryin" to talk about hu$an ri"hts and to defend $y take
on the$8 #he thin" about hu$an ri"hts is that they are also about identity politics
and difference8 #hese thin"s ha%e a history8 !nd this is where I would ar"ue that
identity politics is so$ethin" that needs to be disa""re"ated8 We need to distin"uish
the %arious thin"s that it is> and how it operates8 #he politics of identity and
difference e$er"es at a particular point in our history8 ,erhaps one of the thin"s we
$i"ht underline here is that interest in identity escalates in the )+A1s8 !t a certain
point/ there is an e(haustion or the erodin" of a certain anti-capitalist/ anti-
i$perialist kind of politics with betrayals by the so-called post-colonial elite/ and so
on/ and this can be seen clearly in operation alon"side the rise of identity politics8
'ther thin"s were "oin" on at the sa$e ti$e:chan"es in the Cold War/ first si"ns
of the So%iet stu$ble/ etc8 History is interestin" when you think about hu$an ri"hts
as well8 It is a recent the$e on the world political scene:post World War #wo8
I think this $atters for our work insofar as we are critically ali%e as
anthropolo"ists8 @or $e this $eans there will be thin"s we ha%e to do8 'ur work as
anthropolo"ists $i"ht be to underline and e(a$ine so$e of those historical conte(ts/
or re%eal so$e of the histories of these ter$s8 &y take on that is a way of sayin"
yes to Spi%ak9s point that difference is a by-product of i$perialis$8 #he reason I
want to a"ree with her is because if we do not acknowled"e our work as a co$plicit
part of the knowled"e-producin" apparatus/ if we do not e(a$ine the ways our
discussions:of identity/ of difference/ of ri"hts:feed into the institutionalised
discourses of power/ then we ha%e abdicated our responsibility8 In the face of power
we need to do $ore than $outh words which celebrate di%ersity and applaud the
people wearin" feathers for their idiosyncratic inte"ration into the $arketplace8 We
need to inter%ene:and here the <uestion of le"ality and institutions e$er"es a"ain8
Capitalis$ is brutal/ and on one side law will perhaps so$eti$es protect us and yet
on the other side law is controlled by the force of power as well8
#hus I think we need to think about strate"ic politics and what needs to be
done in ter$s of political pro"ra$$es and we need to understand the difference
between law as force and institutin" structures that do redress oppression/
e(ploitation/ that we redistribute8 We need to institute/ create/ institutions that
defend people8 We are en"a"ed in a stru""le/ like it or not8 Reco"nition of the
co$ple(ity of this is %ery different fro$ $ushy liberal ethics and a $oralistic self-
appro%in" code8 I do not think:and this is the burden of the ar"u$ent:that so$e
ethics of difference is "oin" to be ade<uate to deal with force8 'b%iously that leads
to Karen9s point8 In the face of force/ ha%in" $ore talk and $ore conferences $i"ht
not be ade<uate either8 It see$s to $e that/ while the tanks roll on Fand I was talkin"
about capitalis$ with tanks/ not ?ust tanksE/ ha%in" an ar"u$ent for a $ore ci%il
society is proble$atic as well8 #he proble$ with ci%il society is that we are bein"
too ci%il8 #he tanks roll on8 2rutality still kills8 &ore talk/ $ore conferences/ $ore
U3 foru$s and so on8 It is ?ust not an ade(uate response8 !nd it is the ade(uate
response that concerns $e8 It $i"ht not be a response that anthropolo"y can $ake
or we are e%en obli"ed to $ake in this particular way8 2ut it is so$ethin" we need
to $o%e towards8
#his is where the <uestion about ca$pai"ns a"ainst the ,R of capitalist
hybridity as the best way to $aintain it is rele%ant8 &y point is to ask what will be
ade<uate8 I do not think difference:and this is all we need to win the debate:I do
not think difference is ade<uate8 ifference as a funda$ental ri"ht will not defend us
a"ainst the transition to capital and its brutalisin" effects8 #he notion of hu$an
ri"hts e$er"es in the practice of the social/ in the conte(t of all $anner of "eo-
political/ socio-econo$ic/ co$$unity and indi%idual circu$stances8 @or e(a$ple/
the notion of a cri$e a"ainst hu$anity is <uite new8 We need to do analysis of these
thin"s/ not cower in the face of their wei"ht/ their burden and their "lobalisin"
%elocity which we feel "oes al$ost too fast for analysis8 We need to think about the
way in which our co$plicity and our responsibility as analysts/ within this
ideolo"ical kind of work/ obli"e us to ask what is the role of anthropolo"y in the
face of socially and politically constituted ri"hts8
It $ay be instructi%e to consider what is and is not known by the
=international co$$unity9:as a historically for$ed coalition of nation states/ such
as the U3 or 3ato:and what this =international co$$unity9 is doin" about such
knowled"e in the na$e of hu$an ri"hts8 -et us consider this knowled"e and these
hu$an ri"hts when this =international co$$unity9 is at the sa$e ti$e an e$ployer
of anthropolo"ists/ a $arketer of culture and =differences9 and is also/ say/ bo$bin"
Koso%o to defend the cultural difference of Koso%o !lbanians8 #he sharp
contradiction here $eans we need to hold $ore than one thin" in $ind at the sa$e
ti$e:ri"hts %ersus national so%erei"nty %ersus history of hu$an ri"hts %ersus what
is done in the na$e of ri"hts by powerful bodies and how these factors are then
so$e of the conditions that force a decision in a situation that is undecidable:to
bo$b for culture or not8 #his is what it "ets down toC if you want to bo$b for
culture/ %ote for the other side8

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.