The Culture of Rights/ The Rights of Culture

"Rights," whether environmental, human, indigenous, children's or women's, are often perceived as global or transnational discourses that are produced and circulated by international institutions such as the United Nations, then imposed on "local" communities.  Moreover, rights, especially those deemed "universal," are assumed to be ahistorical and acultural, despite the long histories of struggle over the meanings, classification, and consequences of certain rights at many scales.

In contrast, "cultures" are seen as fundamentally local, moored to specific places, people and times. Culture (or at least so-called "third world culture") is often attacked as the obstacle to rights, the impediment to human progress and prosperity. But such views of social progress are themselves predicated on static, ahistorical definitions of cultures. By considering the local-global articulations of rights and cultures through a comparative lens, seminar participants will explore the specific social histories, political struggles and cultural assumptions that have produced certain rights and/or reframed long-standing debates in the language of rights.

The seminar will include fellows from Africana Studies, American Studies, English, Italian, History, Law (Camden), Political Science, Social Work, Sociology, and Women’s and Gender Studies, as well as IRW Global Scholars from Italy, Morocco, Tanzania, Romania, and several national colleges and universities.

The seminar meets every Thursday from 10:30 to noon at the IRW Library (2nd floor, 160 Ryders Lane, Douglass Campus). Seminar meetings are open to the public but we ask that seminar guests contact us in advance in order to receive and read the papers to be discussed before joining us.


Seminar Fellows

Seminar Schedule

Seminar Abstracts

Printable .pdf version of IRW Seminar Fellows and IRW Global Scholars list