Around the world, indigenous peoples use international law to make claims for heritage, territory, and economic development. Karen Engle traces the history of these claims, considering the prevalence of particular legal frameworks and their costs and benefits for indigenous groups. Her vivid account highlights the dilemmas that accompany each legal strategy, as well as the persistent elusiveness of economic development for indigenous peoples.
Focusing primarily on the Americas, Engle describes how cultural rights emerged over self-determination as the dominant framework for indigenous advocacy in the late twentieth century, bringing unfortunate, if unintended, consequences. Conceiving indigenous rights as cultural rights, Engle argues, has largely displaced or deferred many of the economic and political issues that initially motivated much indigenous advocacy. She contends that by asserting static, essentialized notions of indigenous culture, indigenous rights advocates have often made concessions that threaten to exclude many claimants, force others into norms of cultural cohesion, and limit indigenous economic, political, and territorial autonomy.
About our Speaker:
Professor Karen Engle is Minerva House Drysdale Regents Chair in Law and Founder and Co-director of the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at the University of Texas law School (Austin). She is also an affiliated faculty member of Latin American Studies and of Women’s and Gender Studies. She teaches courses and specialized seminars in public international law, international human rights law and employment discrimination.
Professor Engle received her J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and her undergraduate degree from Baylor University. Following law school, she clerked for Judge Jerre S. Williams on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and then served as a post-doctoral Ford Fellow in Public International Law at Harvard Law School. She was Professor of Law at the University of Utah prior to joining the University of Texas.
Professor Engle writes and lectures extensively on international human rights law. She is author of The Elusive Promise of Indigenous Development: Rights, Culture, Strategy(Duke University Press, 2010), which received the Best Book Award from the American Political Science Association Section on Human Rights. Other recent publications include “On Fragile Architecture: The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Context of Human Rights” (European Journal of International Law, 2011), “The Force of Shame” (in Rethinking Rape Law)(Routledge, 2010)(with Annelies Lottmann), “Indigenous Rights Claims in International Law: Self-Determination, Culture and Development” (in Handbook of International Law)(Routledge, 2009), “Judging Sex in War” (Michigan Law Review, 2008), “Calling in the Troops: The Uneasy Relationship Among Human Rights, Women’s Rights and Humanitarian Intervention” (Harvard Human Rights Journal, 2007), and “Feminism and Its (Dis)contents: Criminalizing War-Time Rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina” (American Journal of International Law, 2005). Professor Engle received a Bellagio Residency Fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation in 2009 and an assignment as a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Bogota in 2010.
Moderator: Vasuki Nesiah
Vasuki Nesiah is Associate Professor of Practice at the Gallatin School In NYU. She is a legal scholar with a focus on public international law. Currently her main areas of research include the law and politics of international human rights and humanitarianism, with a particular focus on transitional justice. Her past publications have engaged with different dimensions of public international law, including human rights and humanitarian law, the international legal history of colonialism and international feminisms. She has also written on the politics of memory and comparative constitutionalism, with a particular focus on law and politics in South Asia. Prior to joining Gallatin she taught in the International Relations and Gender Studies concentrations at Brown University where she also served as Director of International Affairs. She has taught at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and continues as core faculty in the summer workshop of the Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP) at Harvard Law School.
Before entering the academy full time, Nesiah spent several years in practice at the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), where she worked on law and policy issues in the field of post-conflict human rights. She serves on the international editorial committees of the journals Feminist Legal Studies and (the newly inaugurated) London Review of International Law . She also serves on the International Advisory Board of the Institute of International Law and the Humanities at the University of Melbourne, and is an Associate Fellow with the Asia Society. Originally from Sri Lanka, she earned her B.A. in Philosophy and Government at Cornell University (1990), was a Visiting Student in the PPE program at Oxford University (1988-89), and earned her J.D. (1993) and S.J.D. (2000) at Harvard Law School; she received a post-doctoral fellowship in human rights at Columbia Law School (2000-2001). She teaches human rights, law and social theory and international legal studies at NYU.
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