Engaging Tradition Project

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The relationships between tradition and social justice are complex and contingent, conditioned by many factors including social context, individual attachments and mechanisms of transmission and re-enactment. These relationships may be positive, negative or neutral from the perspective of LGBT concerns, and they may be approached in a variety of different ways according to the goals and circumstances at hand. The Engaging Tradition Project aims to explore these patterns in order to establish when and why tradition forms a barrier to the achievement of gender and sexual justice, and to identify how tradition can be deployed in positive ways by activists and social movements in their efforts to overturn or circumvent these barriers.

This working paper lays out a simple conceptual framework to guide the analysis of these questions, applies this framework to a selection of concrete cases, and presents an initial set of hypotheses to be tested and refined through further empirical research. The goal of this research is to produce a set of practical and theoretical tools for use in the continued exploration of the role of tradition, and in strengthening efforts to address and utilize tradition in movements for LGBT equality and broader social change. The paper was written by Michael Edwards, with extensive input from Urvashi Vaid and valuable help from the rest of the Engaging Tradition Project team.1 All comments and suggestions are welcome.

Engaging Tradition - Background Paper.pdf (251 kB)
Background Paper on Engaging Tradition