Tribal sovereignty and the intercultural public sphere

Philosophy and Social Criticism 25 (5):57-86 (1999)
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While theorists of cultural pluralism have generally supported tribal sovereignty to protect threatened Native cultures, they fail to address adequately cultural conflicts between Native and non-Native communities, especially when tribal sovereignty facilitates illiberal or undemocratic practices. In response, I draw on Jürgen Habermas' conceptions of dis-course and the public sphere to develop a universalist approach to cultural pluralism, called the 'intercultural public sphere', which analyzes how cultures can engage in mutual learning and mutual criticism under fair conditions. This framework accommodates cultural diversity within formally universalistic parameters while avoiding four common criticisms of universalist approaches to cultural pluralism. But this framework differs from that of Habermas in two ways. First, it includes 'subaltern' publics, open only to members of cultural subgroups, in order to counter relations of 'cultural power'. Second, it admits 'strong' publics, democratic institutions with decision-making powers. Finally, I show how the subaltern, strong institutions of tribal sovereignty contribute to the fair discursive conditions required for mutual learning and mutual critique in an intercultural public sphere. Key Words: Habermas • Kymlicka • Native peoples • sovereignty • tribal.



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