Beyond Rights Talk and Culture Talk: Comparative Essays on the Politics of Rights and Culture

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Mahmood Mamdani
David Philip, 2000 - Culture - 170 pages
When does a right become a privilege or privilege become to mask itself as a right? The essays bring together comparative material from experiences as diverse as Tanzania, Nigeria, India, South Africa and the USA. Can a culture of individual rights coexist with the right of every individual to practise one's culture? When do conflicts of interest translate into conflicts between rights, and tensions within cultures, and when do languages of culture and of rights become so many ways of handling conflicts of interest? The essays in this volume try to go beyond rights talk and culture talk by placing both within the domain of power and privilege. When does a preoccupation with rights turn into an evasion of the question of power, thereby sheltering the powerful, and when does a preoccupation with power usurp the rights of the powerless? They have the merit of illuminating vital tensions in a period of transition and contention: on the one hand, between individual freedom and cultural freedom, and on the other between freedom and justice. By placing each in this worldly context, they analyse the politics of culture talks and rights talk.

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