Gender and Culture at the Limit of Rights
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Gender and Culture at the Limit of Rights

Edited by Dorothy L. Hodgson

312 pages | 6 x 9 | 1 illus.
Paper 2013 | ISBN 9780812221428 | $28.95s | Outside the Americas £21.99
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights
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"Human rights frameworks, the anthology suggests, are most effective and least problematic when used to 'create space for alternative . . . discourses regarding gender identity,' and understood as discourses meant to foster different, original, and organic expression. In portraying this nuanced and cautiously optimistic vision of the role of human rights discourses in enabling gender justice, Gender and Culture at the Limit of Rights succeeds beautifully."—Harvard Journal of Law and Gender

"[This book] provides us fresh material with which to address the issues of culture, gender, and human rights from an anthropological viewpoint. It will prove a valuable resource that has previously been missing from the array of textbooks that could be used in our courses and a book that will be of general interest for those who work in the field. It moves away from the simple dichotomy of human rights versus culture to look at the interaction of localized legalities and cultural practices surrounding gender."—American Ethnologist

"A timely, well-balanced, and important collection with contributions by many well-known and distinguished scholars. The essays consistently focus on how rights, gender, and culture interact, come into conflict, and discursively construct each other."—Mary H. Moran, Colgate University

"Gender and Culture at the Limit of Rights asks readers to consider not only the potential but also the limits of human rights in a variety of historical and contemporary circumstances. This bold agenda is made even more challenging by the focus on gender, particularly on those many interventions that have depicted women as victims and vulnerable to male power. The book very successfully moves debates forward by exploring how rights-based interventions presume or transform gender relations."—Harri Englund, University of Cambridge

An interdisciplinary collection, Gender and Culture at the Limit of Rights examines the potential and limitations of the "women's rights as human rights" framework as a strategy for seeking gender justice. Drawing on detailed case studies from the United States, Africa, Latin America, Asia, and elsewhere, contributors to the volume explore the specific social histories, political struggles, cultural assumptions, and gender ideologies that have produced certain rights or reframed long-standing debates in the language of rights.

The essays address the gender-specific ways in which rights-based protocols have been analyzed, deployed, and legislated in the past and the present and the implications for women and men, adults and children in various social and geographical locations. Questions addressed include: What are the gendered assumptions and effects of the dominance of rights-based discourses for claims to social justice? What kinds of opportunities and limitations does such a "culture of rights" provide to seekers of justice, whether individuals or collectives, and how are these gendered? How and why do female bodies often become the site of contention in contexts pitting cultural against juridical perspectives?

The contributors speak to central issues in current scholarly and policy debates about gender, culture, and human rights from comparative disciplinary, historical, and geographical perspectives. By taking "gender," rather than just "women," seriously as a category of analysis, the chapters suggest that the very sources of the power of human rights discourses, specifically "women's rights as human rights" discourses, to produce social change are also the sources of its limitations.

Dorothy L. Hodgson is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University.

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