119 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2001
Date Written: November 5, 2000
We often frame the debate over global governance as a conflict between some set of international legal norms, like free trade or human rights, something we posit as national "culture." State actors and legal scholars assert cultural claims as a justification for derogating from some international legal requirement. For example, European states seek exemption from some international trade agreements prohibiting barriers to imported films of music by arguing that the imports threaten their cultural identity or industries. Japan, Norway and some indigenous nations claim a cultural right to whale that supersedes the international moratorium on whale hunting. Some theocratic or developing states claim cultural exceptions to engage in practices that otherwise contravene the international human rights of women and sexual minorities.
In general, the international community does not regard practices that implicate commercial trade or environmental resources as authentically cultural. By contrast, the international community implicitly, if not always explicitly, acknowledges that gender norms are authentically cultural and therefore are entitled to great deference by international law.
How and why doe we posit some social behavior as authentically cultural and when does culture trump international legal norms? This article explores how state actors and legal scholars make cultural claims in different legal contexts and suggests a linkage between the deployment of cultural exceptions and the project of globalization.
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