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What would a community of shared future for mankind look like in the area of human rights
December 22,2017   By:André van der Braak
 
Hogan argues that such a situated type of knowledge has always been applied to human rights. She describes the history of the human rights discourse as “emerging from a particular context, articulating universalist claims, and then being adopted and appropriated by other situated communities who when developed it in ways unanticipated by the originators” (Hogen 2015: 111). For example, human rights are now no longer only conceived in terms of individual liberties, but their relevance has been expanded into the domains of cultural, social and economic rights. What has taken place here is described by Hogan as follows: “a Western expression of a core value acquired a degree of international standing, finds a resonance with other contextual articulations of value, and, through this interaction, not only forges a consensus but in the process transforms the original value. It is recognized that the initial articulation of the claim emerges from within a moral tradition and reflects the values and commitments of that tradition. It is a form of situated knowledge.” (Hogan 2015: 112). 
 
Embedded universalism
 
However, the human rights discourse is not only a form of situated knowledge. Were that the case, we would end up with Chinese, American, European, and African human rights discourses that would all be situated in their respective cultural and historical backgrounds, but would not necessarily have much in common. This was a line of argument that was often heard in the so-called Asian values debate in the nineties of the past century: western human rights ideas are imperialistic and are inconsistent with the values of Asian peoples. Human rights is a local Western idea without roots in Asia. However, as Marina Svensson has shown in her historical overview Debating Human Rights in China, sympathetic discussions of human rights have been integral to Chinese thought throughout the modern period (Svensson 2002).
 
Therefore, Hogan stresses that there is also a universal aspiration inherent in the various situated human rights discourses. There are not “merely local”, but also global. However, this is a different kind of universality than the abstract and disembedded enlightenment universality. It is not grounded in one philosophical groundwork, is not found through abstract reasoning, and is not aimed at the development of some neutral normative regime. Hogen argues that “the universalist convictions we articulate are inevitably embedded in the cultural values through which they are expressed”, that “the justifications we marshal are contingent on the frameworks through which they are intelligible”, that “the foundations on which human rights are based must allow for a plurality of philosophical, religious and cultural world views” and that “the universalism to which we aspire an only emerge and be confirmed through multiple, inclusive, tradition-thick, cross-cultural conversations.” (Hogan 2015: 102). Hogan calls such a new kind of universalism, that is based on an epistemology that views all knowledge as situated, an “embedded universalism”.