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Document Details :
Title: How Neutral is being Neutral?
Subtitle: A Re-Thinking of the Concept of Neutrality as a Practice of Contestation
Author(s): HAGEN, Annemarije
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 25 Issue: 1 Date: 2018
In this article, I scrutinise the viability of the concept of neutrality. More specifically, I deconstruct two recent cases – Quebec’s Bill 60 and the burkini ban in France – in which the discourses legitimating exclusionary practices towards religious minorities are founded, to greater or lesser extend, on the concept of neutrality. In discussing these examples, I defend the liberal position that the state must be neutral so as to prevent discrimination, inequality and partiality. At the same time, I move beyond the liberal frame in order to investigate the hegemonic functioning of the concept of neutrality. In bringing these two traditions together, I hope to counter the problematic and exclusionary functioning of neutrality without debunking the concept altogether. Rather, I propose a re-thinking of the concept of neutrality, arguing that its meaning and implications have to be open to contestation. More specifically, I argue for a need to contest the specific articulation of neutrality by the people who feel excluded by it. This critical, disruptive element of neutrality forces the concept to live up to its universal aspiration and to become ‘more neutral’.