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The coloniality of contemporary human rights discourses on 'honour' in and around the United Nations

Cetinkaya, Hasret (2023) The coloniality of contemporary human rights discourses on 'honour' in and around the United Nations. Feminist Legal Studies, 31 (3). pp. 343-367. ISSN 0966-3622

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s10691-023-09517-w


In United Nations (UN) human rights reporting and analysis, ‘honour’ has been systematically conflated with ‘honour-related violence’ (HRV). However, honour and HRV are not the same thing. In this article I examine contemporary UN human rights discourses around honour. I argue that these discourses are underpinned by racialised and orientalist-colonial imaginaries which falsely categorise people and places as either having or not having honour. This conflation presents honour as a cultural problem attributed to racialised communities mostly associated with the Muslim World. Adopting a critical post- and de-colonial perspective, I undertake a discourse analysis of UN human rights documents to expose orientalist tropes that reproduce epistemic and material violence against honour. There are three strategies employed to commit this violence: first, through the reduction of honour to physical and emotional HRV—a violence predicated upon the logic of coloniality and the orientalist division of the world into modern and pre-modern states; second, by associating honour as violence with Muslims and migrant communities, the discourse furthers structural Islamophobia; third, by reproducing colonial saviour narratives that designate honour as control over women’s sexuality. The human rights discourse on honour forecloses upon alternative ways of understanding what honour is and means for those who live with it. As such, the international human rights discourse on honour extends the coloniality of power and the geopolitics of knowledge.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author
Divisions: Gender Studies
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
K Law > K Law (General)
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2023 15:54
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2024 21:09

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