Indigenous peoples' rights and cultural identity in the inter-American context

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There is a wide set of rules and political documents that refer to the right to cultural identity, in particular with regard to Indigenous Peoples. However, the definition of a right to cultural identity as a human right has been criticised. The risk of tensions and conflicts based on religious or ethnicity grounds puts culture in a central place in the process of defining peoples' identity. This is a relevant issue in contemporary multicultural societies, not limited to indigenous rights.

The concept of cultural identity and rights has expanded from the individual right to participate in and enjoy cultural events and products, to a wider interpretation of collective cultural rights. This shift includes, for instance, the use of lands by indigenous peoples, the use of local languages, and the use of traditional forms of governance. The relevant legal discussion concerns how this recognition is defined and supported in both national and international law, and how judicial decisions have addressed this complex legal issue.

The scope of this article is to explore the possible legal content of the right to cultural identity, with particular attention to the inter-American human rights system, which may help to clarify the legal content of the right to cultural identity in general, and of indigenous peoples in particular.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-50
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Human Rights
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Indigenous rights
  • human rights
  • cultural rights
  • identity
  • Organisation of American States


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