Human rights and peace : Clashing cultures

Main Article Content

Matthew Mullen


Individuals and institutions that embody human rights and
peace face the challenging task of understanding the strain between
the two fields. Scholars in both fields have offered various
explanations as to the source and nature of this strain. Yet, many of
these explanations seem to fall short in explaining the inability to
ease convergence. Personalities, priorities, and programmatic
differences all feed into the strain. Still, the incompatibilities seem
to run deeper. This article searches for a schema to understand
why convergence is such a challenge. Human rights and peace are
so interwoven both intellectually and practically that overlap and
interaction is inevitable. I argue that disconnects between human
rights and peace work are not merely personal or technical; they are
Human rights and peace: Clashing cultures
cultural. That is, human rights and peace advance distinct ways of
thinking, behaving, speaking, understanding, and treating conflicts
and injustices. These cultures clash on the definitive question of
how threats to humanity ought to be dealt with. Seeing human
rights and peace as cultures that diverge at pivotal points helps to
capture the depth of the divide between the two fields. I argue that
while human rights and peace do not mesh on the themes of
violence, conflict, and harmony, the most substantive incompatibility
relates to the way the two fields treat negotiation and dialogue.
Rather than extending this argument to a nihilistic conclusion that
convergence is impossible, I consider the possibility of a shift in
the way both fields approach one another. As cultures, human rights
and peace provide different dispositions which, in combination,
lends to significant versatility. Bi-cultural institutions and individuals
benefit significantly from the ability to shift back and forth between
different patterns and dispositions. In this sense, divergence is not
a threat, but an attribute.

Article Details

How to Cite
Mullen, M. (2015). Human rights and peace : Clashing cultures. Journal of Human Rights and Peace Studies, 1(1), 107–136. Retrieved from
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