Human Rights in Africa: Cross-Cultural Perspectives

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  • Format: Book
  • Published: 1990, The Brookings Institution
  • ISBN: 9780815717959
  • 399 pages
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This powerful volume challenges the conventional view that the concept of human rights is peculiar to the West and, therefore, inherently alien to the non-Western traditions of third world countries.

This book demonstrates that there is a contextual legitimacy for the concept of human rights. Virgina A. Leary and Jack donnelly discuss the Western cultural origins of international human rights; David Little, Bassam Tibi, and Ann Elizabeth Mayer explore Christian and Islamic perspectives on human rights; Rhoda E. Howard, Claude E. Welch, Jr., and James C. N. Paul examine human rights in the context of the African nation-state; Kwasi Wiredu, James Silk, and Francis M. Deng offer African cultural perspectives; and Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im and Richard D. Schwartz discuss prospects for a cross-cultural approach to human rights.

Selected Chapters

  • "An Akan Perspective on Human Rights"
  • "A Christian Perspective on Human Rights"
  • "A Cultural Approach to Human Rights among the Dinka"
  • "Current Muslim Thinking on Human Rights"
  • "The Effect of Western Perspectives on International Human Rights"
  • "The European Tradition of Human Rights and the Culture of Islam"
  • "Group versus Individual Identity in the African Debate on Human Rights"
  • "Human Rights and Western Liberalism"
  • "Human Rights in an Evolving World Culture"
  • "Human Rights in Francophone West Africa"
  • "Introduction"
  • "Participatory Approaches to Human Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa"
  • "Problems of Universal Cultural Legitimacy for Human Rights"
  • "Traditional Culture and the Prospect for Human Rights in Africa"

About the Author: Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im

Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na`im is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory University. Prior to joining Emory in 1995, he was Executive Director of Human Rights Watch/Africa. In February 2009, An-Na`im received an Honorary Doctorate from the Universite catholique de Louvain (UCL, Louvain-la-Neuve) and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U. Leuven, Leuven), Belgium. He also served as Global Legal Scholar at the Law School, University of Warwick, UK (until August 2010); and Extraordinary Professor at the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria (until December 2010). An-Na`im has published more than 60 articles and book chapters on human rights, constitutionalism, Islamic law and politics. As a 2009 Carnegie Scholar, he is working on a book manuscript for Oxford University Press, tentatively entitled: “What is an  American Muslim,” in which he is applying the thesis presented in his 2008 book, Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari`a.  This book is available for download free of charge in eight languages of Islamic societies at (


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