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Trans-cultural Perspectives

Krishna Swamy Dara

By Daniel Fischlin  and Martha Nandorfy
Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 276, Rs.795.00


Sociality is a fact of human existence,however, not an unproblematic one.Even after centuries of contemplation, it is still as enigmatic as ever. With the advent of modernity, tension surfaced between the individual and the community to which the individual belonged. Sociopolitical thinking has been varying as to which aspect should be given prominence over the other. The dominant narrative of ‘human’ ‘rights’ largely recognizes the individual as the bearer of these rights with some concession to human collectives or groups. This epistemic bias has resulted in excluding certain conceptions and problems of marginalized communities from the mainstream discourses on human rights. Even when collectivities are recognized by the dominant discourses it is to accommodate the interests of the dominant collectivities in the name of national, religious and other cultural identities. Large, multinational business corporations are using the idea of community to articulate and promote their business interests rather than the interests of their employees or workers. The book under review, a third volume by the authors, attempts to offer us a comprehensive and critical understanding of the concept of ‘community’. Interdisciplinary and trans-cultural perspective is what the authors employ to under-stand the complex issues that surround the problems of the rights of the community. Their intention is to challenge our academic, theoretical, western, white conceptions of ‘community’. This ‘resistance to theory’, as Upendra Baxi calls it, is a Foucauldian strategy for destabilizing the discursive domains that normalize and stabilize historically contingent and fluid practices. For this purpose, the voice of the subaltern is valued and prioritized over the standard academic discourses. The dominant conception, according to the authors, pays scant attention to the environmental conditions making humanity possible. They take Alan Gewirth’s insight that human rights articulate social/community relation rather than juridical and normative distinctions which was put down by Gewirth in his popular text The Community of Rights. Storytelling is given importance in order to challenge the dominant discourses of power and the State, that tend to homogenize and promote ‘monologic’ in the pretext of community. The writings of Thomas King, particularly his 1995 collection One Good Story, That One is a major inspiration for the authors and they draw heavily on it to make their central concern for the book. Storytelling, here, should not be understood as just exchanges of fairy tales or horror stories for entertainment, but should be seen as collective biographies of ...

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