Read more about the conference in the Spring 2004 issue of Ethically Speaking.

On Monday, March 8, 2004, the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life hosted a one-day conference on the Brandeis University campus. "Justice Across Cultures" explored a variety of issues that arise when systems of justice encounter cultural difference. Participating scholars explored a general set of questions through the examination of particular historical and geopolitical cases. They attempted to answer, among other questions:

  • Under what kinds of historical and political conditions do calls for international systems of justice arise?
  • How are we to understand the intersection of international and domestic justice, and how might these systems be reconciled when in conflict?
  • What role might international systems of justice have in mediating cultural differences and/or in preventing intercultural violence?
  • What kinds of practical difficulties confront those who are charged with enforcing international laws in local communities and in states where those laws conflict with the culturally and/or religiously based moral values of community members?
  • How, if at all, can the various institutions of civil society be used to prevent ethnic conflict?
  • What has been the experience of various restorative justice projects, including both official truth and reconciliation trials and more informal cross-cultural peace-keeping missions? What can we learn from their successes and failures?

The conference was organized around three panels, each consisting of three presentations

Panel 1 - Justice Across Cultures: Historical, Theoretical, and Legal Perspectives

Moderator: Michael Willrich, Brandeis University

Ayelet Shachar, University of Toronto — Justice, Culture, and the Problem of Gender

David Heyd, Hebrew University of Jerusalem — Can Justice be Extended to the Global Sphere?

Eric Cheyfitz, Cornell University — The Force of Translation in the Foundation of U.S. Federal Indian Law

Panel II - Intersections of International and Domestic Justice

Moderator: Bernard Yack, Brandeis University

Kamari Clarke, Yale University — Human Rights Revisited: The International Criminal Court and the Cultural Politics of Implementation

Yasemin Sosyal, University of Essex — Identity, Rights, and Claims Making

Sally Merry, Wellesley College — Tensions Between Global and Local Situations: CEDAW and the Problem of Rape in Fiji

Panel III - Restorative Justice: Reconciliation, Reparations, and Forgiveness

Moderator: Cindy Cohen, Brandeis University

Leigh Payne, University of Wisconsin — In Search of Remorse: Confessions by Perpetrators of Past State Violence

Omar Dajani, McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific — 'End of conflict' and Other Fallacies: Competing Visions of Justice in the New Middle East

Dumisa Ntsebeza — Transitional Justice in the South African Context

Event Program (pdf)

Participant Biographies (pdf)

Marion Smiley, departments of philosophy and women's studies at Brandeis University, and Leigh Swigart, International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, served as the academic co-directors.

The event was cosponsored by the Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History in Jerusalem.