Rosemary Coombe

Canada Research Chair in Law, Communication and Culture

Tier 1 - 2017-11-01
Renewed: 2016-02-01
York University
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


Research involves

Examining how cultural rights norms are evolving to provide Indigenous and rural communities with new political means to revitalize land-based livelihoods and affirm customary legal responsibilities in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Research relevance

This research supports community collective rights practices in support of political self-determination and educates Canadians about evolving human rights norms in contemporary political and economic conditions.

Mapping the Legal Geographies of Cultural Rights

Under what conditions have rights based upon specific cultural knowledges and heritage become prominent in contemporary law and policy? For example, Indigenous peoples and farming communities are now understood to have made significant contributions to developing and maintaining global biological diversity and are recognized as uniquely positioned to foster landscape resilience and address climate change.

Dr. Rosemary J. Coombe, Canada Research Chair in Law, Communication and Culture, is studying the growth of cultural rights in international legal policy. She and her research team are exploring the rapid rise of politically active non-governmental organizations that are challenging and changing modern law to solidify claims of community sovereignty over resource management and to champion the viability of “living law” based upon community traditions.

Coombe’s team is also exploring how such developments shape negotiations between communities that depend on the land for their livelihoods and corporations intent upon resource extraction. In this context, plans by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to reconsider whether Indigenous peoples have been adequately consulted and included in the process of designating World Heritage Sites offers particularly fertile ground for exploring these unfolding processes—especially considering the increasing presence of corporate enterprises in these areas.

Analyzing this history, Coombe and her team explore the ongoing struggles to help develop best practices for communities that seek effective strategies for sustaining livelihoods, putting cultural rights to use, and advancing self-determination.