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Old 04-24-2006, 10:44 PM   #16
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Do other cultures have the right to enforce their cultural norms on other societies?
Well, if norms are a set of acceptable behaviors within a certain group (culture, if you will), then they're not really "norms" once you start forcing them on people outside of the group/culture.

Yeah, that doesn't really help...

Suggested reading = "Communicating with Strangers", my Intercultural Communications textbook. The thing has over 1000 citations in its bibliography! If you can't find the information you need there (unlikely), it at least is a great resource for additional sources and studies on culture and communication.

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Old 04-25-2006, 04:33 AM   #17
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Paul Lauren's The Evolution of International Human Rights is widely used in introductory human rights courses, and might be worth taking a look at. (It is emphatically pro-human rights.) While it doesn't have much detail about specific current controversies, it does look in-depth at the question of how inherently Western an idea human rights is.

Ellen Gruenbaum's The Female Circumcision Controversy is a very good analysis, from an anthropologist's perspective, of the cultural and political issues involved in that topic. Gruenbaum is opposed to female circumcision, but also to the manner in which many Western activists have opposed it.

I don't know of any one book on sati that would lend itself well to your purposes; a few probably-hard-to-find articles, perhaps. Sati is an interesting example of how popular representations of early "human rights" interventions became entangled with 19th century "white-man's-burden" arguments for imperialism. For example, British East India Company records cited by Bentinck's 1829 On Ritual Murder in India (which A_W alluded to) clearly showed that the practice was primarily limited to aristocratic "warrior" castes in specific regions of (what are now) Bengal and Rajasthan; that well under 1% of widows commited sati even in these regions; and that most Indians had never even heard of the practice, let alone observed it. (And the campaign against it which Bentinck is associated with--like numerous earlier anti-sati campaigns in both Moghul and medieval India--was actually instigated and sustained by Indian reformers, in this case led by Ram Mohan Roy.) Yet, the British were quite content to let the ban be promoted abroad as an instance of a widespread "Hindoo abomination" being decisively ended through enlightened British intervention. (In practice, susbsequent Raj-era laws dismissed accessory-to-murder charges against relatives of widows who committed sati, so long as she was at least 18 and had "freely consented" to be burned.)

Also, it's not really ultimately accurate to say that either Japan or China (your wording left me unsure as to which you meant) "did it their way" with regard to Western influences, though you could certainly find some instances of that in the Meiji and Qing periods respectively. The liberal democracy model Japan follows today was imposed by the Allies after WWII, and is a far cry from Prussian-style Meiji democracy with its strong pro-monarchial bent (which was itself largely a legacy of Admiral Perry, a "gunboat diplomat" who gave the Japanese no choice about opening up.) And the upheavals which eventually brought down the Qing dynasty (which had already accepted Western intervention as a necessary evil for staying in power) gave rise to decades of struggle between various revolutionaries, all of whom were profoundly influenced by Western political and economic theories.

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Old 04-25-2006, 07:48 AM   #18
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Thanks to you both for reading suggestions. I'll pass that along.

As far as Japan goes, yes, I am referring to Japan's response to Admiral Perry. If I remember correctly, they realized they had to open up to the west after Perry gave them their ultimatum. The Japanese government sent their leading scholars around the western world to study and to come back and report. When studying the Japanese form of gov't, it became clear to me that the Japanese found a way to keep their culture intact, yet still allow for western influences. Of course WWII complicates the whole thing, but I'd argue that not much really changed culturally for the Japanese after WWII.
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Old 04-25-2006, 10:32 AM   #19
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Originally posted by melon

It's really not that difficult of a concept. For the most part, if you don't tell or force a foreign culture to change, it won't change, even if it has outside visitors.

Considering most of these people live in commercially undesirable places, it's also not that hard to avoid them.

Actually, there is not a clear line between "forcing" a culture to change and a culture adopting aspects from outside visitors when exposed to the different ways. Unlike common stereotypes of missionaries, most trips done today are centered around humanitarian work and sharing of culture - not forced adoption of ways.
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Old 04-25-2006, 06:04 PM   #20
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Originally posted by A_Wanderer
Is it that simple? Are we not all human beings and shall we not all be entitled to fundamental indivisible human rights?

I think this might be the fundamental question: Is the concept of certain basic human rights and freedoms a Western "cultural" concept or are they, as the Enlightenment philospohers posited, universal, "natural" rights that are inherent to every human being.
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Old 04-25-2006, 06:07 PM   #21
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Oops I got distracted and posted my question without stating what I believe the answer is.

I believe there are basic human rights that supersede culture. However, I think it's important to note that Western culture does not necessarily hold a monopoly on all of those rights.
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Old 04-26-2006, 07:42 AM   #22
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Your correct, but those rights can be determined through logical axioms, wholy independent of cultural bias. This is evident in that there is no nation on earth with consistent rights and liberties for it's citizens.

Internationalism is something that should be embraced, passive cultural exchange should not be prevented.

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