Developing Normative Consensus: How the ‘International Scene’ Reshapes the Debate over the Internal and External Criticism of Harmful Social Practices

Journal of East-West Thought 2 (1):107-121 (2012)

Abstract

Can we ever justly critique the norms and practices of another culture? When activists or policy-makers decide that one culture’s traditional practice is harmful and needs to be eradicated, does it matter whether they are members of that culture? Given the history of imperialism, many argue that any critique of another culture’s practices must be internal. Others argue that we can appeal to a universal standard of human wellbeing to determine whether or not a particular practice is legitimate or whether it should be eradicated. In this paper, I use the FGC eradication campaigns of the 1980s to show that the internal/external divide is complicated by the interconnectedness of these debates on the international level. As the line blurs between internal and external criticism and interventions, new questions emerge about the representativeness of global institutions.

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