Human Rights Dialogue (1994–2005): Series 2 No. 12 (Spring 2005): Cultural Rights: Annotated Resources: ADDITIONAL READINGS on Cultural Rights

Oct 14, 2005

The following is a list of recommended readings on cultural rights, organized by books, articles and web resources.


Seyla Benhabib, The Claims of Culture: Equality and Diversity in the Global Era. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002
In this book, Yale University professor Seyla Benhabib provides a systematic look at various theories of culture, identity, inclusion, and pluralism and the role that these play relative to democratic theory, rights, redistribution, and citizenship. The author argues that much debate on this topic is handicapped by a flawed conception of cultures as unified and autonomous entities. In an effort to reconcile liberal-democratic theory with cultural politics, Benhabib develops her own deliberative democratic model, which allows maximum cultural contestation within the parameters of civil society.

Will Kymlicka, ed., The Rights of Minority Cultures. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995
This collection of essays by some of the most prominent political and legal theorists in the area of minority rights is an important text for understanding the current debates on cultural rights, especially as they relate to ethnocultural conflict and democratic theory. The essays present a wide range of opinion on issues such as: models of cultural pluralism, political representation of minorities, individual versus collective rights, immigration and citizenship.

Alison Dundes Renteln, The Cultural Defense. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004
This is an excellent resource for those interested in the challenges traditional cultural practices pose to contemporary law. Drawing upon a plethora of case material (mostly from the United States), Renteln argues that there are patterns to the cultural arguments made in courtrooms that provide a starting framework for a systematic use of culture in legal proceeding. In doing so, Renteln considers the limits of cultural rights and develops policy guidelines for their inclusion in legal decision-making.

Richard A. Shweder, Martha Minow, and Hazel Rose Markus, eds., Engaging Cultural Differences: The Multicultural Challenge in Liberal Democracies. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2002
This collection of essays produced out of a series of meetings sponsored by the Social Science Research Council examines the challenges of pluralism in liberal democracies and considers various solutions. Individual chapters address the ways that cultural differences impact individuals, workplaces, and legal systems. Striking at some of the most important cultural rights issues, the authors ask how the law should regulate cultural practices and what the limits should be to cultural accommodation.

Halina Niec, ed., Cultural Rights and Wrongs, UNESCO, Institute of Art and Law, 1998
This book reflects a wide range of opinion on the state of cultural rights in the late 1990s. The eleven essays, written by representatives from the five continents, highlight some of the most important topics in recent cultural rights debates: the rights of indigenous people, the protection of the intangible heritage, the role of UNESCO, and the creation of international mechanisms for the implementation of cultural rights. The issues addressed in this book have informed UNESCO's recent work in the areas of cultural diversity and the protection of the intangible heritage.

2004 Human Development Report: Cultural Liberty in Today's Diverse World. United Nations Development Program, 2004
This issue of the annual United Nations Development Program report seeks to confront the deficits of majoritarian democracy and the challenge of building inclusive, culturally diverse societies. The goal of the report is an all-encompassing evaluation of "cultural liberty" in the world today, including a look at the consequences of cultural diversity, legislative and other mechanisms for achieving this goal, and the role of globalization in the destruction, preservation, and change of cultures.

Richard Wilson, Jane Cowan, and Marie Benedicte Dembour, eds., Culture and Rights: Anthropological Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001
This is a first-rate collection of essays that challenges the binary of human rights universalism and cultural relativism, arguing instead that local and global norms are interactive and interdependent. Approaching their topic from the field of anthropology, the authors use case studies to test theoretical approaches. The essays in part I expose the inadequacies of traditional "essentialist" anthropological approaches to culture on the one hand, and of international human rights law on the other, to accommodate the complexities revealed by real-life situations in which the rights of minorities are involved. The essays in the second part of the book discuss the advantages, problems, and unintended consequences of using culture as a basis for rights struggles.

Ronald Niezen. The Origins of Indigenism: Human Rights and the Politics of Identity. University of California Press, 2003
This book offers an excellent history of the global indigenous rights movement and analyzes the ways indigenous rights advocates have made use of the international human rights system to advance their claims.


Bruce Robbins and Elsa Stamatopoulou, "Reflections on Culture and Cultural Rights," [PDF, 17 pages] South Atlantic Quarterly, 103: 2/3 (2004)
This essay, a critique of Culture and Rights (see above), is valuable for those concerned with the political dilemmas surrounding the recognition of cultural rights. The authors observe that as scholars become increasingly convinced that culture is an unbounded and fluid concept, more people are firmly identifying themselves with their heritage and, as such, are making demands to protect it. These claims based on cultural rights inevitably pose political difficulties to nation-states. The authors explore the relative merits of two strategies: seeking self-determination and seeking cultural rights within a multiethnic state. They identify challenges presented by recognizing cultural rights, but suggest that the benefits of this strategy far outweigh the inconvenience of these challenges.

Janusz Symonides, "Cultural rights: A neglected category of human rights." International Social Science Journal (1998)
In this article, Warsaw University professor Janusz Symonides systematically describes the cultural rights protections provided by international law. He aims to show that, despite being regularly ignored by human rights scholars and practitioners, cultural rights are well-articulated and the tools necessary to protect them are in place. In the second part of the essay Symonides discusses the various challenges to cultural rights (globalization, emerging technologies, claims about relativism, etc.), and presents a plan to better assure their protection.

Robert Albro, "Making Cultural Policy and Confounding Cultural Diversity." Cultural Commons, October 2005
In this timely and critical analysis of the draft UNESCO Cultural Diversity Convention, Robert Albro argues that the document's vague definition of "diversity," particularly the failure of the drafters to attach the diversity concept to specific cultural subjects, is the proposed convention's most problematic aspect.

Web Resources

"Why Cultural Rights Now?" Lecture by Elsa Stamatopoulou at Carnegie Council, Sept 2004
In her 2004 lecture at the Carnegie Council, Elsa Stamatopoulou, Chief of the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the UN, provides a critical overview of cultural rights in theory and practice. She explains the historical meanings given to the term "cultural rights," why these rights have been neglected, and why they are of particular importance today. Richard Wilson, Andrew Nathan, Tanni Mukhopadhyay, Shalini Venturelli, John Scott, and Tara Melish, respond.

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