Culture is a contested concept as a consequence of its many multi-layered and context-dependent meanings. Lawyers are joining the quest to pin down a (legally) suitable understanding of 'culture'. The theme 'legal features of cultural diversity' deals with cultural diversity on the African content.
The theme 'legal features of cultural diversity' is a broad and complex theme that has been experiencing a great deal of important global developments. Changes on the African continent are also evident. In South Africa, for example, culture used to be subsumed under the overarching title of 'race relations' in the legal sphere and the focus was on 'race' as a marker of difference. Although apartheid may at long last have been abolished, the fiber of South African society remains splintered along cultural lines. Race (as marker of difference) has been replaced by culture. Cultural differences are no longer seen as detrimental to one's legal standing but rather as something which should be celebrated. Cultural diversity in all its forms has come to the fore as a powerful concept, both in the public and private sphere. While scholars from other academic disciplines, especially anthropology and sociology, have been struggling with the facets of 'culture', mainly as a social phenomenon, legal academics are increasingly joining in the quest to pin down a (legally) suitable understanding of 'culture'. Culture and other areas of law are linked, for example culture and human rights, culture and sustainable development, culture and governance and culture and religion. Other countries in Africa are experiencing similar challenges regarding cultural diversity, for example Namibia (Southern Africa) and Cameroon (central Africa). This panel focuses on the practical implications of cultural diversity in Africa form a legal perspective.