The Language of Westernization in Legal Commentary

32 Pages Posted: 26 May 2016

See all articles by Holning Lau

Holning Lau

University of North Carolina School of Law

Date Written: 2013


With the rise of globalization, American legal commentators are increasingly directing their attention at developments abroad. When commentators discuss changes in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, they frequently use the terms "westernization," "westernize," and "westernized." This language elevates the status of the West, framing it as the reference point for understanding changes in other parts of the world. In this essay, I draw from the fields of law, linguistics, and post-colonial studies to illuminate problems with this common practice of discussing changes in terms of westernization. I show that this discursive framework limits understandings about changes around the world and I expose normative problems that these limitations present. In light of these concerns, I propose substituting the language of westernization with alternative terminology.

Keywords: Westernization, globalization, law and humanities, hybridity, framing

Suggested Citation

Lau, Holning, The Language of Westernization in Legal Commentary (2013). American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 61, 2013, UNC Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN:

Holning Lau (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States
919-962-8514 (Phone)

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