A Dialogical Approach to Human Rights: Institutions, Culture and Legitimacy

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In this study I address the moral and cultural disagreement and conflict regarding the interpretation of human rights norms that threatens the legitimacy of the human rights enterprise. Such disagreements present an opportunity to probe, question and dissect beliefs to uncover inconsistencies and false assumptions and attain a deeper insight into human rights norms that are presently left in a rather abstract form in international human rights documents and conventions.

I describe and defend an institutionally-driven dialogical approach that promises to systematically address these moral and cultural disagreements. My approach rests on two claims. First, clearer content for human rights norms will emerge from within particular cultures if critical cultural and moral investigation through dialogue is encouraged. By engaging in dialogical processes, we not only discharge our obligation to aid in a process that leads to a fair specification of human rights norms, but we also come to understand how human rights norms are, at their very core, participative.

Second, one way that international human rights institutions (IHRIs) can legitimately fulfill their function of supporting human rights is by encouraging critical moral investigation through dialogue. I make this proposal more concrete by discussing the case law on the issue of transsexuals that has come before the European Court of Human Rights.






Hlavac, Monica Anne (2009). A Dialogical Approach to Human Rights: Institutions, Culture and Legitimacy. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/1124.


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