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Human Rights, Legal Systems, and
Customary Cultures Across the Global South

Conference banner: short title over a blue background behind continent shapes
April 9-10, 2010
Indiana University Maurer School of Law (map)
211 South Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, Indiana 47405

About the Symposium

At Indiana University, the Maurer School of Law, the Center for Latin American Studies and the African Studies Program are sponsoring a Symposium on law and language across the global south with a special focus on human rights as the concept is shaped, adapted, rejected, or contested in various locations. In Africa, Latin America, and other locations in the global south, social groups commonly operate with multiple legal systems that generally include an official state system of law and others based on indigenous legal practices, customary law, and Islamic law. Scholars have used the term legal pluralism to analyze these complex legal situations, but work has only begun that can analyze how human rights discourse can articulate with these various legal systems. Equally challenging is the conjunction of the notion of human rights with indigenous rights and women's rights, both forceful movements across the global south today. Boaventura de Sousa Santos has asked a question which might serve to launch our discussion: "How can human rights be both a cultural and a global politics?"

The Symposium will take place over a day and a half, in plenary format, to allow for ample discussion and exchange. Scholars of legal systems and legal pluralism will present their findings and concepts on panels with scholars and practitioners of human rights, in its fullest definition. The papers will be published in the Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, a peer reviewed, interdisciplinary Journal published by the Law School and IU Press. Final papers will be due on Aug. 1, 2010.


The symposium is co-sponsored by Indiana University's African Studies Program, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and Maurer School of Law.

Additional support has been provided by Indiana University's New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities Program, Office of the Vice President for International Affairs, and Center for the Study of Global Change.


Alfred Aman, Jr.
Professor of Law
Indiana University Maurer School of Law
Jo-Marie Burt
Associate Professor of Government and Politics
George Mason University
M. Kamari Clarke
Professor of Anthropology
Yale Unversity
John Comaroff
Harold H. Swift Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Social Sciences
University of Chicago
Guillermo de la Peña
Professor of Anthropology
CIESAS - Occidente
Jan French
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
University of Richmond
Peter Geschiere
Professor of African Anthropology
University of Amsterdam
Erika George
Professor of Law
University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law
Shane Greene
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Indiana University
Siba Grovogui
Professor of International Relations and Political Theory
Johns Hopkins University
Bret Gustafson
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Washington University
Mala Htun
Associate Professor of Political Science
The New School
Patrick Keenan
Professor of Law
University of Illinois College of Law
Bradley Levinson
Associate Professor of Education
School of Education, and
Director, Center for Latin American and Carribean Studies
Christiana Ochoa
Professor of Law
Indiana University Maurer School of Law
Muna Ndulo
Professor of Law and Director,
Institute for African Development
Cornell University Law School
Charles Piot
Professor of Cultural Anthropology
Duke University
César Rodríguez-Garavito
Associate Professor of Law and Sociology
University of the Andes
Jacqueline Solway
Professor, Department of International Development Studies
and Department of Anthropology
Trent University
Paula Spieler
Professor of Law
School of Law Fundação Getúlio Vargas — Rio de Janeiro
Beverly Stoeltje
Professor of Anthropology
Indiana University
Timothy Waters
Associate Professor of Law
Indiana University Maurer School of Law
S. Laurel Weldon
Associate Professor of Political Science
Purdue University
Susan H. Williams
Professor of Law
Indiana University Maurer School of Law


The schedule presents an outline. See the complete abstracts.

April 9

Conference Room

Introduction and Welcome

9:30 - 11:30
Conference Room

Panel I: Problems of the Universal and the Particular

  • Kamari Clarke

    Religion and Human Rights: Is there a Crossroads?

  • Siba Grovogui

    For the Orphan, Dispossessed, and Illegitimate: Human Rights beyond Republican and Liberal Traditions

  • Muna Ndulo

    The Application of Customary Law and Its Implications for Women's Rights

  • Christiana Ochoa
11:30 - 12:45
Faculty Lounge


12:45 - 3:15
Conference Room

Panel II: Claims in Context

  • Bret Gustafson

    Gas Geopolitics and Indigenous Self-Determination Rights in Bolivia

  • Paula Spieler

    Maria da Penha Case and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: Contributions to the Debate on Domestic Violence Against Women in Brazil

  • Jo-Marie Burt

    Guilty as Charged: The Trial and Prosecution of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori for Human Rights Violations

  • Susan Williams

    Democracy, Gender Equality, and Customary Law: Constitutionalizing Internal Cultural Disruption

  • Bradley Levinson
3:15 - 3:30


3:30 - 5:30
Conference Room

Panel III: Law, Struggle, and the Collective

  • Jan French

    The Power of Definition: Brazil's Contribution to Universal Concepts of Indigeneity

  • Jacqueline Solway

    'Culture Fatigue': The State and Minority Rights in Botswana

  • César Rodríguez

    Between Global Governance and Indigenous Rights: The Right to Prior Consultation and the Proceduralization of Survival

  • Shane Greene
5:30 - 6
Conference Room


  • John Comaroff
7 - 9:30


April 10
9:30 - 11:30
Conference Room

Panel IV: Rights Across the Global South

  • Mala Htun and S. Laurel Weldon

    Sex Equality in Family Law: Religion, Custom, and the State in Comparative Perspective

  • Erika George

    Pluralism, Universality: Putting Rights in Context and South/South Cooperation

  • Patrick Keenan

    Community Consultations: The Interplay of Corporations and Communities in the Extractive Industries

  • Alfred Aman
11:30 - 1
Faculty Lounge


1 - 3
Conference Room

Panel V: The Politics of Belonging and Exclusion

  • Guillermo de la Peña

    Ethnographies of Social and Political Exclusion in Western Mexico

  • Peter Geschiere

    Citizenship, Autochthony and Exclusion Paradoxes in Present-day Politics of Belonging

  • Charles Piot

    The "Right" to be Trafficked

  • Beverly Stoeltje
3 - 3:30
Conference Room


  • Timothy Waters

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