Contact: Ellen Sterner
SMU News & Media Relations
(214) 768-7650

April 1, 2002


DALLAS (SMU) -- In some Islamic countries, a man may kill his wife if she commits adultery. If an Islamic couple moves to the United States, could the husband do the same thing to his wife?

This is the premise behind the "cultural defense plea," in which people in the United States plead their cultural background in defense of a criminal charge.

Princeton University anthropology professor and lawyer Lawrence Rosen will discuss the cultural defense plea during an April 26 lecture sponsored by the Anthropology Club at SMU. The lecture, titled "The Cultural Defense Plea and the Legal Concept of Culture," will begin at 5:30 p.m. in McCord Auditorium on the third floor of Dallas Hall. Parking is available in the nearby Airline parking garage at the corner of Airline and Daniel.

Rosen will discuss how the courts view culture and how culture might be taken into consideration in the courtroom without establishing a formal defense.

"This is a very hot topic and has broad interest to the legal community as well as to immigration scholars," said Caroline Brettell, chair of the Department of Anthropology at SMU. Brettell touches briefly on the cultural defense plea in her book, Migration Theory.

Rosen received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1968 and his J.D. from the University of Chicago in 1974. His main interests are in the relation between cultural concepts and their implementation in social and legal relationships. His publications include The American Indian and the Law, Meaning and Order in Moroccan Society, Bargaining for Reality: The Construction of Social Relations in a Muslim Community, The Anthropology of Justice: Law as Culture in Muslim Society, and Other Intentions: Cultural Contexts and the Attribution of Inner States.

At Princeton, Rosen teaches courses on law and anthropology, comparative religious systems, the American Indian and the law, and the theory of cultural systems. He received the Presidential Distinguished Teaching Award from Princeton in 1997.