Human Rights and Diversity: Area Studies Revisited

Human Rights and Diversity: Area Studies Revisited

Human Rights and Diversity: Area Studies Revisited

Human Rights and Diversity: Area Studies Revisited


The development and study of human rights have increased significantly over time and have seen an intensified interest at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Much can be learned about the status of universal human rights by approaching the subject from regional perspectives. These diverse vantage points shed new light on the importance and complexity of the issues. David P. Forsythe and Patrice C. McMahon have brought together a collection of essays from top scholars in their fields. Each essay examines how a region, as defined by geography or culture, affects the standards and practice of human rights in a particular area. The issues discussed include human rights and child labor in South Asia, women's rights in Muslim states, the prospects and challenges of human rights in the Middle East, the role of women and tradition in Africa, and accommodating diversity in Europe. The collection also includes essays commenting on the parameters and intersections of international human rights in relation to area studies.


In the late 1990s the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln decided it would make sense to pool faculty resources across departmental boundaries so as to create interdepartmental programs of some significance. Rather than operate according to rather small departments of modest status in national and international evaluations, the decision was taken to build on existing but fragmented strength by creating interdisciplinary initiatives. This type of thinking led to the creation of the program in International Human Rights and Diversity.

Shortly thereafter the UNL Human Rights Initiative was granted some programming monies from the Ford Foundation to integrate human rights with areas studies. All areas of the world, no matter how defined, manifest human rights violations according to internationally recognized human rights. But the question naturally arises as to whether different areas manifest different patterns in accepting and implementing international standards on human rights. It was out of this intersection between universal human rights and the different areas of the world that a conference was held in Lincoln in October 2001. This book is the result of much of that conference.

On the basis of a call for papers and the resulting competition, we invited to Lincoln a dozen or so leading thinkers from the disciplines of law and political science to inquire into whether we could gain insights into human rights behavior through a focus on area studies. We made sure to include both quantitative and qualitative approaches to the subject. Our budget limited us to hosting scholars from North America and Western Europe. We tried to compensate for the limitations imposed by budgetary considerations by inviting a keynote speaker who was a national of the Sudan. Because we found our budget constraints forced a lack of coverage in important human rights matters, we added material in our concluding chapter. Thus although we were not able to bring in a scholar to cover China and East Asia, the editors paid special attention to that area in the concluding chapter.

The resulting conference papers, most of them now chapters in this volume, more than justified our original thinking. They provide a rich reflection on how geographical, cultural, and analytical areas can inform an understanding of human rights standards and practice. All authors graciously revised their original drafts several times in the light of conference discussion and editorial queries. Both the keynote speaker and the book editors spent considerable time after the conference seeking integrated and thematic reflections for the opening and closing chapters.

The details of the conference were handled with skill and grace by Ms. Barbara- Ann Rieffer. The details of the manuscript were handled in fine fashion by Mr. Jonathan Trexel. Ms. Helen Sexton was of great assistance concerning budgetary . . .

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