Prof. Bhuta on Human Rights

Nehal BhutaIn the fourth installment of the Fall 2011 Faculty Workshop Series, sponsored by the Frances Lewis Law Center, Professor Nehal Bhuta, Assistant Professor of International Affairs at The New School for Public Engagement, came to speak today about his article, Rethinking the Universality of Human Rights: A Comparative Historical Proposal for the Idea of “Common Ground” with Other Moral Traditions.

In the article, Prof. Bhuta discusses his approach to finding common ground between Islamic legal thought and practice and the law and practice of international human rights. A common approach is to start from premises about the underlying rationale or purposes of the rules and identify common values and purposes by deduction or induction. The danger, however, is that these premises may be marred by contemporary political thought, skewing the results of the comparison. Therefore, Prof. Bhuta suggests that rather than start from a comparative axiological list of values and norms, the exercise should engage in comparative histories of the present configurations of norms and values. This will relativize both sets of values by trying to grasp their meaning and social significance within specific formations of politics, place and power.

Professor Bhuta’s article will be a chapter in the forthcoming publication, Islamic Law and International Human Rights Law: Searching for Common Ground?, to be published by the Oxford University Press in 2012. Many thanks to Professor Bhuta for visiting W&L and sharing his paper with the faculty.

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