Dr Jen Hendry speaks at University of Mississippi
On 23 April Dr Jen Hendry discussed her recent research at The University of Mississippi School of Law.
In a Brown-Bag Luncheon she will be discussing her paper “Beyond A Rights-Based Approach to Indigenous Justice”. The paper has been co-authored with Prof. Melissa Tatum of The James E. Rogers College of Law, University of Arizona.
As Indigenous people in the U.S. and around the world gain a more powerful voice, they are increasingly bringing claims for justice before a variety of tribunals. Many, if not most, of these claims have failed, causing both scholars and activists to focus attention on how more effectively to vindicate the rights secured to Indigenous people by national and international laws. This essay argues that they are engaging in the wrong conversation, that the rights-based discourse is part of the problem and not necessarily the solution. The authors contend that Western legal culture, and the rights-based approach that forms its foundation, is often ill suited to accommodating claims made by subaltern legal cultures. It follows that a solution cannot be achieved simply by strengthening these rights or by adding further rights rooted in the same tradition. Instead, it is first necessary to analyze the reasons behind the failure of the rights-based approach in handling conflicts between the dominant legal culture and Indigenous communities, and then to use that understanding in order to develop alternative strategies. To the extent that we can move beyond a rights-based approach – and we must – there must be greater acknowledgement at both national and international levels of the importance of contextual considerations to issues of Indigenous justice, along with genuine commitments to legal pluralism.