Volume 6, Issue 14, Winter 2011
Group Rights and “The Clash of Civilizations”
I argue that an icon in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the “circle of candles” represents an alternative to Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilization” thesis. But I also put forward a public policy that initially may seem to contradict this alternative: group or cultural rights, beyond, and even sometimes conflicting with, individual rights. Such rights at first blush appear to ensconce the same sort of walled-in, homogeneous and exclusionary cultural entities that Huntington’s thesis implies I begin by stating Huntington’s thesis and the opposition to it that Amartya Sen has voiced in a recent book. I then provide a way of understanding the circle of candles that reinforces but also goes beyond the multi-identity type of multiculturalism that Sen places in opposition to Huntington’s warring monocultures. This understanding of the circle of candles, I will argue, shows how group or cultural rights, properly construed, can be incorporated into the type of hybrid society–what I call a “multivoiced body”– that constitutes a compelling alternative to the exclusionist responses to 9/11. My argument is reinforced by consideration of the current Zapatistas movement and their demands for group rights.