Unconditionally Human? Decolonising Human Rights

  • Crain SoudienEmail author
Part of the Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Rights book series (CHREN, volume 2)


Taylor [Modern social imaginaries (p. 12). Durham: Duke University Press, 2003], in a powerful discussion of the nature of social differentiation in modernity came to the conclusion that the “modern order gives no ontological status to hierarchy or any particular structure of differentiation”. The point Taylor sought to make is that where “whole segments of our supposedly modern society remained outside of this social imaginary” (ibid.), like the French peasantry late in the nineteenth century, or women in the family, today these ideas of hierarchy are being comprehensively challenged. Taylor’s summing up of where the world is today in relation to where it had been just 50 years before is not uncritical. Large problems remain both in our social imaginaries and in our political practices. Challenges to both the conceptualisation and realisation of the expanding normative order continue to present themselves. Race, gender and disability are key examples. In this essay, using Jacques Derrida’s ideas of hospitality, I engage critically with Critical Race Theory and Decoloniality to argue that they open up important new insights into the politics of human rights and the dominant universalisms which characterise this politics. There remain, however, blind spots in the ways they conceptualise what it means to be human.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Human Science Research Council, University of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa

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