Indigenous Rights Claims in International Law

Self-Determination, Culture, and Development

Authored by: Karen Engle

Routledge Handbook of International Law

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  January  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415418768
eBook ISBN: 9780203884621
Adobe ISBN: 9781134113095


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This chapter examines the emergence and application of the human right to culture as the primary legal and political strategy for making rights claims on behalf of indigenous peoples. It discusses the different ways in which advocates invoke the right to culture, presenting a typology ranging from claims that make a relatively small claim on the state in terms of resource sharing and development (culture as heritage) to those that pose significant challenges to the neo-liberal state (culture as land and culture as development). I consider the successes and dark sides of each of these uses of the right to culture and caution indigenous rights advocates against the temptation to embrace “strategic essentialism.”

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