The female inheritance movement in Hong Kong: Theorizing the local/global interface

Sally Engle Merry, Rachel E. Stern

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Human rights concepts dominate discussions about social justice at the global level, but how much local communities have adopted this language and what it means to them are far less clear. As individuals and local social movements take on human rights ideas, they transform the shape and meaning of rights to accommodate local understandings. At the same time, they retain aspects of the global framework as signs of a global modernity that they wish to share. How and when individuals in various social locations come to see themselves in terms of human rights is a complicated but critically important question for anthropologists of globalization as well as for human rights activists. Using the female inheritance movement in Hong Kong in the early 1990s as a case study, this article argues that the localization of global human rights ideas depends on a complicated set of activist groups with different ideological orientations along with translators who bridge the gaps. As it explores the local appropriation of global cultural products, it reveals the instabilities of global and local and the importance of tracing the processes of translation and collaboration that make communication across this continuum possible.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)387-409
    Number of pages23
    JournalCurrent Anthropology
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Jun 2005

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Archaeology
    • Anthropology
    • Archaeology


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