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date: 07 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The most significant contemporary challenges to humanism do not come from critics who relegate it to anti-religiousness or exclusively immanent concerns, but from those who critique humanitarianism and human rights as the most powerful humanist discourses of our time. These critics bring two important insights: they identify humanism as both religious and secular in character, and they point to it as an enacted rather than merely an intellectual disposition. The critics in question, however, sustain a narrow, Western centric understanding of what humanism is. This chapter seeks to destabilize that view but also to move beyond the mere “critique of critics” (Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique) to gesture toward the particularity and plurality of humanist traditions as platforms for ethical and political practices—humanitarianism and human rights included.

Keywords: religious and secular humanism, aspirations and practices of humanism, humanitarianism and its critics, human rights and their critics, Talal Asad. Didier Fassin, Samuel Moyn, Western centrism, particularizing humanism

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