chapter  8
Human rights, human difference: anthropology’s contribution to an emancipatory cultural politics
Pages 11

Human rights pose fundamental problems of both theory and practice for anthropology. The way these questions are dealt with will have important implications for the future of the discipline, both as a theoretical project and as a profession. In addition to the intrinsic theoretical and political importance of the issues they raise, the current surge of concern with human rights among anthropologists has been precipitated by changes in the way anthropology as a discipline relates to its subjects as well as by changes in the subjects themselves. The increased involvement of anthropologists with human rights issues clearly constitutes a cultural and historical phenomenon that calls for anthropological interpretation in its own right. The increasing commitment of the American Anthropological Association to an active role in supporting and protecting human rights has stimulated new theoretical reflection not only on the principles underlying “rights” but on the meaning of the adjective “human” as well. The field of human rights has thus become one in which activist practice has come, in important respects, to lead the development of theory.