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Culture and Rights

Culture and Rights
Anthropological Perspectives


Sally Engle Merry, Marie-Bénédicte Dembour, Heather Montgomery, Anne Griffiths, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Jane K. Cowan, David Gellner, Rachel Sieder, Jessica Witchell, Colin Samson
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  • Date Published: November 2001
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521797351

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About the Authors
  • Do people everywhere have the same, or even compatible, ideas about multiculturalism, indigenous rights or women's rights? The authors of this book move beyond the traditional terms of the universalism versus cultural relativism debate. Through detailed case-studies from around the world (Hawaii, France, Thailand, Botswana, Greece, Nepal and Canada) they explore the concrete effects of rights talk and rights institutions on people's lives.

    • Ground debate about the universalism or relativism of human rights in concrete and specific social struggles as opposed to abstract social and legal theory
    • It examines the strengths and limitations, as well as the unintended consequences, of making human rights claims on the basis of notions of culture, community or tradition
    • Interdisciplinary approach provides different perspectives
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'It is difficult to fault this excellent collection, which is very well edited and rich in detail and theoretical analysis.' Gerard Delanty, Global Review of Ethnopolitics

    ' … this edited volume will be of much interest to those interested in contextualising and in thinking across the notions of universalism and cultural relativity. The contributors very eloquently make their case in their ethnographically varied articles, leaving the reader with plenty to think about and even, at times, reconsider their stances. This is definitely an edited volume worth reading.' Maria Gropas, Cambridge Anthropology Journal

    '… this is a serious book that addresses important political issues and challenges the adequacy of the anthropological and legal concepts that impinge on them … what this excellent book shows is that the standardized legal form that the international definition of rights has taken cannot easily accommodate the complex realities of the world as it is.' The Journal of The Royal Anthropological Institute

    'the book shows clearly and accurately the pitfalls of the adoption of an essentialist view on 'culture'. Moreover, it points out eloquently that there is no unique theoretical model that can be sufficiently applied to nay claims over rights and culture across the global … will assist and advance the discussion on the implementation of rights.' Nations and Nationalism

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2001
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521797351
    • length: 274 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 150 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.36kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    Part I. Setting Universal Rights:
    2. Changing rights, changing culture Sally Engle Merry
    3. Following the movement of a pendulum: between universalism and relativism Marie-Bénédicte Dembour
    4. Imposing rights? - a case study of child prostitution in Thailand Heather Montgomery
    5. Gendering culture: towards a plural perspective of Kwena women's rights Anne Griffiths
    6. Between universalism and relativism: a critique of the UNESCO concept of culture Thomas Hylland Eriksen
    Part II. Claiming Cultural Rights:
    7. Ambiguities of an emancipatory discourse: The making of a Macedonian minority in Greece Jane K. Cowan
    8. From cultural rights to individual rights and back: Nepalese struggles over culture and identity David Gellner
    9. Advancing indigenous claims through the law: Reflections on the Guatemalan peace process Rachel Sieder and Jessica Witchell
    10. Rights as the reward for simulated cultural sameness: the Innu in the Canadian colonial context Colin Samson.

  • Editors

    Jane K. Cowan, University of Sussex

    Marie-Bénédicte Dembour, University of Sussex

    Richard A. Wilson, University of Sussex


    Sally Engle Merry, Marie-Bénédicte Dembour, Heather Montgomery, Anne Griffiths, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Jane K. Cowan, David Gellner, Rachel Sieder, Jessica Witchell, Colin Samson

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