Culture and Rights: Anthropological Perspectives by Jane K. Cowan, Marie-Bénédicte Dembour, Richard A. Wilson

By Jane K. Cowan, Marie-Bénédicte Dembour, Richard A. Wilson

Do humans all over the place have an analogous, or perhaps appropriate, rules approximately multiculturalism, indigenous rights or women's rights? The authors of this booklet circulate past the conventional phrases of the universalism as opposed to cultural relativism debate. via specific case stories from worldwide (Hawaii, France, Thailand, Botswana, Greece, Nepal and Canada) they discover the concrete results of rights speak and rights associations on people's lives.

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As the anthropologist Julian Steward pointed out (1948: 351), `If the plea that cultural values be respected means merely that the primitive peoples, who are on the receiving end of civilizing in¯uences, be treated with greater understanding and tolerance, there can be little objection to it'. But, he continued, did that mean approval of the social caste system of India or the racial caste system of the United States? Or approval of the exploitation of primitive peoples through Euro-American economic imperialism?

1989: 168). He then distinguishes between `cultural membership', a phrase acknowledging a person's attachment to a `cultural structure' seen as `a context of individual choice', which both liberals and communitarians claim to value; and the character of a culture at a particular historical moment, which is not coterminous with `the culture' as such, since it may represent simply the version of `the culture' promoted by the social groups which happen to be in power. 20 Introduction Kymlicka further criticizes communitarian arguments which assume, rather than investigate, `shared meanings' and `shared projects'.

These women bene®t economically in relations with male partners by being able to demonstrate that, over the years, a customary marriage does indeed exist. Grif®ths does not deny that an elite, including, most famously, the lawyer Unity Dow, has mobilized a Western-based rights discourse to promote women's interests. But she insists that international legislation must be sensitive to context in order to meet the needs of different groups within one state. She calls for a non-essentializing pluralism which, grounded in the reality of people's lives, is neither universalist nor relativist.

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