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Human Rights Thinking in Relationship to African Nation-States: Some Suggestions in Response to Simeon O. Ilesanmi

Preston N. Williams
The Journal of Religious Ethics
Vol. 23, No. 2 (Fall, 1995), pp. 323-331
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40017854
Page Count: 9
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Human Rights Thinking in Relationship to African Nation-States: Some Suggestions in Response to Simeon O. Ilesanmi
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Abstract

That the political and moral concept of human rights originated in the West warns us to be watchful for Western biases in human rights discourse, but the concept must be set in the context of the West's attempt to address the universal struggle of individuals and groups to secure justice in the face of claims against them. Thus, the correction of Western bias requires not a rejection of the notion of human rights but a thick description of that struggle as it is manifest in other times and cultures. African experience is richly instructive. Because African nation-states did not emerge from civil societies associated with a particular people, some have represented the communalism of traditional peoples as a distinctive African perspective on rights. Though such claims deserve careful attention, African communalism requires the critical scrutiny that is appropriate to all stances that have the potential to foster coercive and exclusive practices.

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