Comparative Study of French & American Anti-discrimination Laws

Anti-discrimination laws are an important part of efforts to fight racism, sexism, religious bigotry and anti-gay prejudice in a growing number of nations world-wide. But legal and moral principles such as nondiscrimination acquire meaning in relation to unique national histories, philosophical commitments and social practices, and they are implemented through distinctive national political institutions. For instance, American civil rights laws were developed in the context of the struggle to end slavery and later, Jim Crow segregation; by contrast anti discrimination laws in much of Europe were a response to centuries of religious conflict and the anti Semitic atrocities of World War Two. As a result, American anti discrimination law tends to focus on equal access to the economy—jobs, places of public accommodation and housing—while, for instance, French anti discrimination law emphasizes injuries to dignity, insults and threats. Our project will study the importance of national culture and institutions in the practical development and implementation of anti-discrimination law.


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