What Does Anthropology Contribute to Discussions of Human Rights and Social Justice?
A. Essay/Human Rights
- Development and conservation
o Practices of these that are inherently problematic
o Revisiting these within the essay questions
o Readings this week: three readings that have been chosen that offer a huge
o We cannot impose on anyone else a particular world view. We have to see
cultures I their context as equally valid as our own.
Imposing a view on someone else, universalistic approach, is
Liberal/neoliberal model of the individual: all very individualistic.
Value individual. Personal worth determined by one’s own
Only someone in relation to someone else: as soon as we cut all social
relations, we cease to exist. In particular idea of western individualistic
notion of personhood, this isn’t true
Other cultures do not see this way
Don’t come into existence until you are in a relationship with
Professor/students. Two entities first. Do not actually become
who we are until we engage in social relations. Numerous
subjects in textbook
I am blank’s son. I am who I am because of an inherent
relationship to mother and large kinship network. Kinship and
naming gave particular location In social world
Second essay question. HOW DOES individualism translate into
People who think of themselves as social networks vs.
- Debate. Human rights. Use of human rights discourse, taking language and
manipulating it or otherwise, Is used to justify interventions, while at the same time
ignoring things we might consider fundamental.
o Ex. Colonization. Western nations benefitted greatly from cheap resources,
cheap labour, from places former colonies now considered underdeveloped.
o Global system based on inherent injustice, but from this point forward now
being treated equally?
o Human right not to be subjected to pollutants? See complexity in each issue
o Right to development? Seen problematic nature of word and interventions of
development. Not arguing for or against, but something like this has life of its own and needs to be understood in nuanced way to see how word does what
we want it to do
o Ideas of human rights.
- First essay question: human rights paradox
o IMPOSING PARTICULAR way of understanding the world – one we feel
o Within parameters of this, can you find anything that interests you?
o Won’t necessarily be a solution. HOW are they worked out?
- Second essay question: notion of individual can be problematic?
- Third essay question: response to Riles’ article.
o Even human rights professionals are not so naïve as to think that human rights
are fixed and natural and unchanging. They KNOW this isn’t the case. But for
the purposes of the human rights industry, they have to ignore that
o Inherent contradiction and problem that human rights language cannot be
easily translated into the social actuality of people’s lives
o Once it became institutionalized, it became an absolute to be applied
generally as opposed to case-to-case, similar to development
B. Evolution of a thesis statement
- Starts with an idea
o Ex. Participation in class is important
o Result after having read material, lectures, notes, tutorials
- After general statement, push the idea further
o Ex. Participation in class is important to improve your understanding of the
material because it forces students to think about the material
o Answering WHY this is important, what is worth exploring about this?
o Clarify the terms in your topic
Important = improves students understanding of the material
Participation = speaking in class as opposed to listening, etc
Thinking = rephrase the material in your own words and relate it to
your own experiences
- HAVE to underline thesis – what you are arguing in the essay
- Provide context beforehand
- After thesis statement, ass a “road map” – what the essay will explore and argue
throughout the essay
o Ex. Active listening, a more advanced thought process, and better retention
- Final exam: engagement into thinking as well
o Same notions applied to essay are significant throughout the course
C. Conservation and violence
- Violence tends to be endemic to conservation history a. US history
o How did the development of Niagara Falls impact the way conservation was
practiced in Africa?
At some point, around late 18thcentury, European dignitaries came
Taken to some of the US sites
Dignitaries: imagine if falls was nested in beautiful natural setting.
Americans were embarrassed
Development and nature don’t go together; detracts from
experience of natural
Idea of wilderness becoming predominant
Americans decided they wouldn’t let it happen again
Yellowstone natural park
o Cannot have development. Withdraw “settlement,
occupancy, or sale…” , anyone settled there
o Was not natural wilderness or virginal land, but
occupied and managed land.
o Violence: cause harm to others by physically locating
them, beating them, jailing them; idea that humans are
destructive to nature
o Nature and humans as separate
o Ideal was seen as a way to conduct conservation
b. British history
o What historical factors helped shaped a vision of Africa as an Eden, a
wilderness and wilde?
“Myth of wild africa”
West and Britain represented the rash, sophisticated,
developed, Africa represented the savage; closer to animals
Exaggerating the explorers
Need to exaggerate stories in order to sell?
Myth of wild Africa starts to resonate in European psyche
The Rinderpest misunderstanding (1890’S)
Disease that affects cattle and wildlife; decimated continent
Wipes out 80-90 percent of cattle and large number of wild
Human populations are low, wildlife populations low
Over next few years, grow at faster rate
o At this point, Europeans begin to come and document
this o Unbelievable amounts of wildlife visible on planes of
o Human populations start to grow, cattle population
grows thin, competition between humans and wildlife
o Human conservations interpret this as how its always
been, the natural way, and now humans are starting to
decimate these populations
o Want to intervene now
o Particular historical juncture interpreted through lense
rather than understanding particular juncture
Imperial hunter vs. barbaric poacher
Hunt is an important part of British ethic? Taken very seriously
Symbolic event for colonial British mentality: sign of
civilization, nature, sport, sport because animals are given fair
chance to escape, gendered notion
Indigenous local African hunting is seen as cruel and barbaric
o Indiscriminate: threaten viability of species, threaten
o Primitive poaching and hunting is outlawed but colonial
hunt is allowed
o Some of the earliest advocates of conservation were
hunters – ironic
British aristocrats lose their land
Enclosure movement (18 /19thcenturies) th
Social/political/economic upheaval of early 20 century
Loss of English countryside
Colonial ideology: empire’s garden
Aristocracy in England start to have upheaval
Enclosure movement: nature Is large estate in country
surrounded by open fields, “nature”
These estates surrounded by villages; the peasantry
To make way, whole villages were raised and uprooted for
1890’s, aristocracy losing economic power, cannot uphold
Turned their gaze to places such as Africa. Colonies extensions
of colonial power. Empire’s garden = Africa.
c. State violence
o Fortresses and fines approach Way in which conservation was understood: get people out of
area, imprison them, not allowed to go back
Imprisoned for either poaching or trespassing. Use violent means to
- The displacement debate of Central Africa
ANT204 Lecture 10 A Final Debate? Human Right and Social Justice March
Essay Questions and Guidelines Walkthrough
• Purpose of this Essay
◦ Went through various topics related to the essay questions. Anthropologists were
approached with a culturally relativistic idea of “universality” by NGO's and
asked what they thought: Anthropologists did not agree with the model presented.
However the organizations went ahead anyway. Used a universalistic approach
that ignored the cultures they were intervening in. Western history comes from
enlightenment thinking, neoliberal thinking – this idea of individual person-hood
is completely nonsensical and inapplicable in many other cultures. In many
cultures you're only someone in terms of your relation to someone else. In many
cultures you do not even come into existence until you come into contact with
someone else and have a relationship with them, therefore the Western
individualistic neoliberal model will not be effective when used in these other
◦ While anthropologists were excluded from these organizations, they have still been
working on exploring these different cultural models and engaging with these
complex issues. People say “anthropologists have avoided these hard questions”,
but their dialogue was just not acknowledged in these large institutional spaces.
Some anthropologists support human rights/conservationist groups, some
vehemently oppose them, some are more balanced.
◦ What about the idea of reparations for colonization? What about the western world
undergoing centuries of benefit at the expense of their colonies? There have been
years of inherent social injustice, but from now on we're just going to view and
treat everyone “equally”?
◦ Everyone has the “right” of development? What about the extreme damage
development has on the environment, and on other countries?
◦ Is it advantageous for indigenous groups to use these human right's groups language to
“play the part” for benefits? There are lots of benefits, but consequences as well –
especially when they stop playing their parts. What do you think?
◦ Human rights needs to be understood within the particular context in which we find it.
• Question 1
◦ Do any of these questions and topics interest you? You're not solving these issues, you can't. But can we engage somewhere here. There won't necessarily be a solution
to these questions.
• Question 2
• Question 3
◦ even human rights professionals are not so naive to think that human rights are fixed,
universal and unchanging, but for the purposes of the human right's industry and
translating these things into policy and teaching and practice, they have to go
along with it. Once human rights becomes institutionalized (conferences, NGO's,
journals, policy, etc) you suddenly have to work within absolutes.
Conservation and Violence
• American History
• How was the conservation of Niagara Falls related/destructive to Africa?
◦ In Niagara you see hotels, casino's, tons of development – not a very “natural” wonder
of the world
◦ late 18 century, EU dignitaries were hosted by US government and were taken around
the Niagara site – the EU dignitaries said “it was amazing, but boy did you screw
this up” – imagine if it was nested in a beautiful natural setting, not gross waffle
houses and cheap motels – development detracts from your experience of the
natural, development and nature don't go together
◦ Yellowstone Natural Park Act if Dedication (1872) – US said they must remove
everyone living in the park. However Yellowstone was not untouched virgin land,
many people lived there. The aboriginals living there were forced out, arrested,