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Cultural Defense

In pluralistic societies, individuals belonging to ethnic minority groups sometimes find that their traditions clash with the law of the state. When individuals involved in legal proceedings are asked to explain their conduct, they raise what jurists and scholars call the cultural defense. Immigrants, for example, attempt to persuade the court that it should understand their behavior in the proper cultural context; the premise of their argument is that their enculturation shaped their perceptions and predisposed them to act in particular ways that conflicted with the law. Such a defense, if recognized, allows the consideration of cultural evidence in the courtroom in both civil and criminal matters. The basic question is whether legal systems should take into account evidence concerning a litigant's cultural or ...

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