This page is not a one-stop shop for publications on ‘human rights and culture’. There are numerous sites where you can find lists of publications in that field. This is a carefully selected set of publications specifically contributing to the development of the receptor approach, i.e. implementing human rights by embedding them in local culture and social practice.


Applied Intersectionality in International Human Rights Law Implementation – A Case Study of Migrant Women Workers as Domestic Helpers in China

Qinxuan Peng

The multiple disadvantages faced by women migrant workers reflect complex and layered socio-legal problems. This research aims to develop a systemic set of legal recommendations for improving the Chinese domestic legal system to ensure effective legal protection of female migrant domestic workers’ fundamental human rights and their right to decent working conditions. In this study, intersectionality theory is applied to display the overlapping forms of disadvantage faced by the vulnerable. The implications of existing international human rights treaties and international labour conventions are analysed in an effort to generate recommendations for improving China’s domestic laws relating to Hukou  (household registration) reform, discrimination elimination and working conditions. As such this study can be seen as a crucial first step in designing a contextually sensitive approach aimed at solving concrete problems in a concrete social setting.

Human rights measured by the dimensions of culture

Peter Peverelli

Given that human rights issues have always been central in the international discourse and in the Cold Wars between NATO and the Soviet Union/Russia and now in the new US/NATO China Cold War Agenda, it is important to discuss how the concept of human rights – and the Universal Declaration – is itself a cultural construct based on certain values and how the implementation of human rights must vary according to history, cultural values and ways of thinking, or social cosmology.

Has China Devised a Superior Path to Wealth Creation? The Role of Secular Values

Charles Hampden-Turner, Peter Peverelli, Fons Trompenaars

The rise of China will profoundly change the world, and the rest of us now have a chance to understand how and why this is happening, or continue to moralise about this “disaster”, thought to harm our way of life. What is especially galling is that the Chinese appear better able to create wealth and value than the West. Even in the midst of political denunciations, more and more businesses are profitably engaging China.

We have to face the fact that China excels at what we are supposed to admire, the peaceful creation of wealth. It even withstands the current pandemic several hundred times more successfully than we have. The answers to China’s success lie not in “communism” but in Chinese civilization and culture which is 22 centuries old and extends to most of East Asia, and has traded peacefully since Roman times. This is a book about measured business cultures, East and West, and explains, using largely Western scholarship, why China is winning and will continue to do so unless and until we wake up.

The second author, Peter Peverelli, is affiliated with the CCHRC. Has has used the model applied in this book in contributions to several international conferences to explain how different sets of cultural values lead to different perspectives on rights and duties.

You can read Chapter 9 on democracy for free here.

Social Institutions and International Human Rights Law Implementation

Julie Fraser

Having articulated numerous human rights norms and standards in international treaties, the pressing challenge today is their realisation in States’ parties around the world. Domestic implementation has proven a difficult task for national authorities as well as international supervisory bodies. This book examines the traditional State-centric and legalistic approach to implementation, critiquing its limited efficacy in practice and failure to connect with local cultures. The book therefore explores the permissibility of other measures of implementation, and advocates more culturally sensitive approaches involving social institutions. Through an interdisciplinary case study of Islam in Indonesia, the book demonstrates the power of social institutions like religion to promote rights compliant positions and behaviours. Like the preamble of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the book reiterates the role not just of the State but indeed ‘every organ of society’ in realising rights.

Between Ignorance and Murder – Racism in Times of Pandemics

Peter Herrmann, Junxiang Mao, Qinxuan Peng, Tom Zwart

The present work is fundamentally resting on two pillars. First, the international web-conference on Addressing Contemporary Forms of Racism: Challenges Posed by the Pandemic and the National Responses organised at Changsha, PRC on July 3rd, 2020, hosted by the Human Rights Center of Central South University, Cross Cultural Human Rights Centre of Vrije University Amsterdam and China Top Think Tank-Wuhan University Institute of International law. The conference provided a platform for connecting scholars from different parts of the world, such as China, the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, South Africa and other countries, serving well into the future. The presentations given have important theoretical significance and practical value to eliminate racism and promote inclusiveness for the international community. Second, the pandemic as point of reference for a new wave of racism and prejudice, conjoined by especially one case of an attack: the brutal murder of George Floyd by U.S. police force and bystanders. While this incidence had been not linked to the pandemics as global threat, it clearly gave evidence of the ongoing parochialism, dominant on the global political stage. As such, experiencing racism as part of a contemporary global health crisis is going much beyond its topicality. Thus, also the importance of its analysis cannot be limited to anti-Chinese sentiments as they are so virulent against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis. Click here for a review of this book.


The Cross-cultural Human Rights Review published a special issue about the relationship between the way various nations cope with the COVID-19 epidemic and human rights: Volume 2, Issues 2-3, Special Issue: Human Rights Protection in Epidemic Situations, December 2020. 


Zwart, T. (2019). Tradtiional Spiritual and Cultural Values as Sources of Human Rights. Proceedings of The Fifth Cross-Cultural Seminar on Human Rights (Chinese) (Tianjin, Dec. 2-3, 2016). Beijing: China Intercontinental Press

These proceedings comprise 25 papers presented during the 5th Cross-Cultural Seminar on Human Rights organised by the CCHRC, the Center for Human Rights Research at Nankai University (Tianjin) and the Netherlands School of Human Rights Research. Together, the form a valuable source of inspiration for the basic philosophy of the CCHRC. It is currently only available in Chinese, but hopefully an English version will appear soon.


Seth D. Kaplan (2018). Human Rights in Thick and Thin Societies: Universality Without Uniformity, Cambridge University Press.

This book draws a compelling picture of the difference between human rights values in ‘thick’ societies (those which are focused on ‘maximising robustness of relationships and institutions’) and ‘thin’ societies (which favour ‘maximising individual freedom’). The text sets up a clash between these two sets of values and, in particular, the tension between the thin Western human rights regime when it attempts to exercise hegemony and power over thick minority communities within their jurisdictions (particularly in an increasingly individualist and secular Europe), or thick societies in the Global South internationally. For a more elaborate book review click here.

QIAO, Cong-rui (2018). Institutional Resolutions of Mass Actions in Post-Reform China: An Interdisciplinary Study of Internal and Externally Perceived Functionalities (PhD supervised by CCHRC’s Tom Zwart)

The rule-of-law principle for good governance is widely accepted. But how can it be realised across the diverse governance systems? This research offers a departure from the conventional wisdom of legal-political scholars who have long deemed administrative justice as a normative framework for improving public governance. Conversely, it explores the idea that the governance system is the basic context where the administrative justice norms and mechanisms evolved.

In the past two decades, Chinese citizens affected by government conduct have been increasingly able to call to account those responsible and request due redress – noticeably through collective actions, or what is often referred to as mass actions in the Chinese context. According to the estimates released in official and academic reports, the number of complainants taking part in mass actions escalated from some 730,000 in the year 1993 to over a few million across the first decade of the twenty-first century. Surprisingly, this phenomenon has rarely received careful scrutiny it deserves.

Currently, widely available literature has two major sources of disciplinary insights into the settlement of mass actions in China. The first inputs are from political theorists who tend to identify commonalities among different sorts of mass actions (e.g. framing claims in established principles and using persuasive moral language). This frame is, however, less informative about commonalities among different government reactions to mass actions so that officially accepted norms and institutionalised procedures are poorly identified.

Second, legal analysts, concerned with legislative results, help delimit the normative scope of how mass actions should be dealt with, but fail to explain their enforceability within China’s governance framework where the administrative power has been long more dominant than legislative and judicial counterparts.

The basic assumption of this research is that it is essential for the Chinese Government to sustain popular perceptions of its trustworthiness, or what the author calls ‘institutional credibility’. The author examines two factors: first, whether and to what extent these institutions accord with and implement their accepted norms when tackling mass actions (internal functionality); and second, whether and to what extent the agencies and procedures devised by these institutions are perceived as acceptable, justifiable and effective in public discourse (externally perceived functionality).

The author has selected three types of mass actions:

  1. As far as the settlement of collective petitions is concerned, the recent news is less critical of participants in collective petition than the earlier news. The recent news tends to be advocative of the procedural standardisation while critical of the discretionary involvements of government officials as the latter are shown as limiting the overall effectiveness of the settlement of collective petitions.
  2. As to the settlement of labour actions, the news popularly frames labour actions as consequential of the emergence of market economy, and reflective of the flaws in labour reform policies. Among the mediation, arbitration and litigation procedures, the mediation is portrayed more effective than the other two;
  3. With regards the settlement of rural demonstrations, the political intervention is shown necessary and effective in handling the so-called Wukan case in the news. On the other hand, the news also suggests the negative implication of political interventions for reinforcing the long-existing dichotomy between credible higher authority and suspicious grassroots authority which would in turn restrict the internal functionality of the grassroots favour self-governing mechanisms.

Sun, P.H. (2018) Historic Achievement of a Common Standard Pengchun Chang and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Singapore: Springer (DOI 10.1007/978-981-10-8370-9)

The subject of this book is human rights law, focusing on historic achievement of a common standard viewed from a perspective of Pengchun Chang’s contributions to the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  This is an original research, integrating different research methods: inter-disciplinary approaches, historical and comparative methods, and documentary research and so on. The research findings can be described briefly as follows: Chinese wisdom has played an important role in achieving a common standard for the establishment of the international human rights system, which can be seen by exploring P. C. Chang’s contributions to the drafting of the UDHR. The target readers are global scholars and students in law, politics, philosophy, international relations, human rights law, legal history, religion and culture.  This book will enable these potential readers to have a vivid picture of the Chinese contributions to the international human rights regime and to have a better understanding of the significance of the traditional Chinese culture and P. C. Chang’s human rights philosophy of pluralism.


Fraser, J.A. & David Contreras, V.M. (2017). A Legal Pluralist Approach to the Use of Cultural Perspectives in the Implementation and Adjudication of Human Rights Norms. Buffalo Human Rights Law Review, 23 (75), (pp. 75-118).

The assertion that state law is the law is perhaps one of the greatest and most embedded creeds in Western legal cultures. In practice, however, individuals coexist among multiple communities generating and enforcing norms. Some Of these norms are regarded as official law, while others are considered informal or customary law (or not even law at all). While law­yers tend to focus on state-sanctioned law-the self-proclaimed only law­ legal pluralist scholars have long studied legal hybridity in a given social field. In this paper, we borrow some of their insights to analyze the opera­tion of international human rights law. The state monopoly on the produc­tion and enforcement of law has not only sidelined infra-state normative orders, but also denied public international law (including human rights law) the quality of law. . . . .


Sun Pinghua (2016). Pengchun Chang’s Contributions to the Drafting of the UDHR. In: J Civil Legal Sci 5:209. doi: 10.4172/2169-0170.1000209

The Universal Declaration of human rights (UDHR) has turned out to be a truly remarkable instrument, serving as a landmark in the history of mankind. P.C. Chang, the chinese representative, participated in the leadership and the drafting work, and made an outstanding contribution in the drafting process: He defined the nature of the declaration accurately, successfully integrated confucianism into the declaration, solved many disputes relevant to human rights origins, made the declaration a rigorous structure, creatively broke the deadlocks and resolved conflicts, dominated the drafting process of the right to speak in the proposed mutual tolerance and harmonious social philosophy, and expounded china’s views on human rights to the world. These contributions were marked down in history, and his contributions were also the contributions of chinese civilization, national intelligence, and traditional culture.


Cheng, S.K. (2015) translation, power hierarchy, and the globalization of the concept “human rights”: potential contributions from confucianism missed by the udhr. In: The Age of Human Rights Journal, 4 (June 2015) pp. 1-33.

This essay strikes new paths for investigating the politics of translation and the (non-) universality of the concept of “human rights” by engaging them in a critical dialogue. Part I of my essay argues that a truly universal concept would have available linguistic equivalents in all languages. On this basis, I develop translation into a tool for disproving the claim that the concept human rights is universal. An inaccurate claim to universality could be made to look valid, however, if one culture dominates over others, and manages to impose its own concepts and exclude competitors. Part II explores how human rights, initially a modern Western concept, became more and more universalized as a result of the global reach of Western political and economic power. I attempt to shed new light on the subject by investigating the role of translation in bringing about the global hegemony of Western legal and political languages and concepts. Since translation always involves a choice of foregrounding one of the two languages and cultures involved, the translator is a power broker who can promote one voice at the expense of the other. My examples for conducting this investigation are the key contributions made by China and the West to the drafting of the UDHR: with ren and rights representing respectively the West and China’s proposed solutions to crimes against humanity in the immediate aftermath of World War II. While the concept rights became increasingly assimilated into the Chinese language along with her repeated defeats by colonial powers (and was already firmly established in the Chinese vocabulary by the time of the drafting of the UDHR), ren by contrast has never been included by any Western language and culture.

Thio Li-ann (2015). Cross-Cultural Exchange of Human Rights: Crossing Divides or Crossing Swords?, in: The Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 15 No. 1, Feb.  2015, pp. 60 – 70.

Underlying the call for a cross-cultural exchange of human rights is a suspicion towards international human rights law whose core doctrinal tenet is the universality of human rights. It carries with it both hope and a fear, generating advocacy, ambivalence and antipathy, sometimes all three impulses simultaneously. This is unsurprising in a plural, postmodern would, where civilisational diversity is celebrated and where ‘grand narratives’ are deemed unfashionable. Are human rights then the last utopia,  in its call for a universal if not transcendent/objective standard of treatment? Does universality require uniformity or is plurality accommodated? The answer to this question will determine the utility or redundancy of ‘cross cultural exchanges of human rights.’ This paper sketches out the landscape of human rights discourse with a view to asking: Do ‘human frights’ unite us (crossing divides) or does it divide us (crossing swords), or does it do both? Challenges to the universality of human rights may be inspired by a fear of radical individualism, secular fundamentalism and militant politics. It considers that states do not reject the universality of the concept and recognizes the gap between theory and practice in realizing rights, which are also selectively implemented.


Mimi Zou (2014) The Evolution of Collective Labour Law with ‘Chinese Characteristics’?: ‘Crossing the River by Feeling the Stones’?. in Roger Blanpain, Ulla Liukkunen and Yifeng Chen (eds), China and Ilo Fundamental Principles And Rights At Work, Bulletin of Comparative Labour Relations Vol. 86 (Kluwer Law International, 2014)

The expression of ‘crossing a river by feeling the stones’ (mozhe shitou guo he), popularised by Deng Xiaoping, is commonly evoked by Chinese policy-makers to promote a cautious, gradual, and selective approach to reform that takes into account ‘Chinese characteristics’ (zhongguo teshe). Over the past three decades, the framework for regulating collective labour relations in China appears to have evolved in this manner. However this approach may not be able to respond to the rapidly changing currents of China’s new market economy that have generated conflicting interests between labour and capital. The continued absence of genuine collective labour representation mechanisms at the workplace/enterprise level has seen the escalation of labour disputes in various forms and on different scales. The implementation of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) fundamental principles and rights at work concerning freedom of association and collective bargaining would constitute an important step towards addressing the structural deficiencies in China’s collective labour relations framework by providing a vehicle for worker voice and for a fairer distribution of economic gains. This would strengthen the foundation for sound labour market governance based on a new approach of ‘crossing the river by building a bridge’ (dajian qiaoliang guo he).

Zwart, Tom; Nora Al Haider; Elena Butti; Augustine Hungwe; Roestenburg – Morgan, Ingrid; Links, Stacey; Qiao, Congrui; Prudon, Henrike; Odhiambo, Michael; Fraser, Julie (2014). Safeguarding the universal acceptance of human rights through the receptor approach. In:  Human Rights Quarterly, volume 36, issue 4, pp. 899 – 905

The receptor approach relies on ethnographic research to identify social institutions and cultural values that match international human rights obligations. Where these institutions and values fall short, home-grown remedies are used to amplify them. The receptor approach provides a practical tool to activists and states. In addition, it welcomes culture as a potential source of human rights rather than dismissing it as an impediment to their protection. Yvonne Donders and Vincent Vleugel’s position that it is “old wine in new bags” is therefore unfounded. The same is true for their argument that it pits “the West against the rest.” Research shows that regional values are still notably different. States are entitled to take these cultural differences into account when implementing their human rights obligations. Denying them their right to do so will force Southern states to disengage.


Biholar, R. (2013), Transforming Discriminatory Sex Roles and Gender Stereotyping. The implementation of Article 5(a) CEDAW for the realisation of women’s right to be free from gender-based violence in Jamaica, School of Human Rights Research Series Vol. 62, Cambridge: Intersentia.

Gender-based violence against women is a stubborn problem worldwide. From Jamaica to the Netherlands or China, from Romania to South Africa or the United States, in every corner of the world, gender-based violence still affects the everyday lives of many women. This scourge has deep social and cultural roots, which foster a vicious cycle of gender violence. Embedded constructions of femininity and masculinity based on ascribed sex roles and consequent gender stereotyping hinder the elimination of gender-based violence and the implementation and full realisation of women’s human rights. Therefore a social and cultural transformation is necessary in order to render efforts to reduce gender-based violence against women effective and to realise women’s right to a life free from violence. In order to gain an in-depth understanding and to address these dilemmas in the theory and practice of Article 5(a), the author explored the lived realities of putting this Article into practice in the concrete country setting of Jamaica. Based on this empirical research, this book presents a practical model for the implementation of Article 5(a) in a concrete country setting.


Kamga, S. A. D. (2011). The right to development in the African human rights system: The Endorois case. De Jure (Pretoria), vol.44, no.2, p.381-391.

The aim of this article was to examine the impact of the Endorois case on the realisation of the RTD in the African human rights system. After an overview of the RTD characterised by the controversy on its nature, the article proceeds to show that Endorois departs from SERAC, DRC and Gumne. In this respect, Endorois defines the concept of “peoples”, clarifies the beneficiaries of the RTD and stresses the role of the state as the primary duty bearer. It also explains the content of RTD which is multifaceted as it comprises elements of non-discrimination, participation, accountability and transparency, equity and choices as well as capabilities. In addition, it explains the threshold of people’s participation needed in development endeavors and emphasises the immediate realisation of human rights as subscribed to the ACHPR. The Endorois decision provides guidance on how to ensure the justiciability of the RTD.


An-Na’im Abdullah (1990). Human Rights in the Muslim World – Socio-political conditions and Scriptural, in: Harvard Human Rights Journal, 1990, at J13.

To hundreds of millions of Muslims, the historical formulations of Islamic law known as Shari’a determine the boundaries of legal and ethical conduct. In this Article, Professor An-Na’im explores the implications of Shari’a for Muslim observance of international human rights standards. Part I addresses the legitimacy of these standards in Muslim countries, focusing on the international legal principles of equality and nondiscrimination. Part II traces the development of Shari’a in Islamic history and its influence on Muslims. Professor An-Na’im discusses several conflicts between Shari’a and human rights standards, rejecting the contention that such inconsistencies do not exist. Part III explores the political and social forces associated with Islamization in Muslim countries. Professor An-Na’im argues that such pressures heighten the need to examine critically the effect of Shari’a on human rights violations. Part IV presents a case study on Shari’a and Muslim women’s rights. Finally, in Part V, Professor An-Na’im offers a methodology for human rights advocates in the Muslim world: to reexamine the scriptural imperatives in the Qur’an to make the dictates of Shari’a consistent with international human rights norm.


Ronald Thandabantu Nhlapo (1989). International Protection of Human Rights and the Family: African Variations on a Common Theme, International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, Volume 3, Issue 1, P. 1–20

The article discusses the generally low priority accorded human rights in Africa, and suggests that this is largely due to the ease with which critics of the human rights movement are able to characterize it as foreign and irrelevant to the continent. Arguing that in the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights Africa now has a document whose origins cannot be dismissed as alien, and whose philosophy is more ideologically and culturally relevant to it, some potential areas of conflict in its application are nevertheless identified. The main thesis is that there appears to be an inevitable tension between African thinking on human rights in general, and some of the specific provisions of the African Charter. The author argues that African thinking has found its way into the Charter via clauses insisting that reflections on the document should be animated by ’traditional African values‘, and that this sets the stage for conflict in the area of family law since traditional values may be at sharp variance with the more ’modern‘ rights granted by the Charter. In particular, it is suggested that in Africa problems of marriage and the family cannot be dissociated from issues of women’s rights and that protection for the latter is greatly reduced under a Charter dedicated to uphold traditional values. The article concludes with some proposals for resolving this apparent conflict.