Christmas operating hours

Dear readers,

The ANU Press offices will be closed from midday, Wednesday 24 December 2014 until Monday, 5 January 2015, for the Christmas/New Year festive period. Any queries directed to the office during this period, whether by phone or email, will not be addressed until the office reopens on Monday, 5 January 2015.

We would like to wish all our readers, authors and supporters a wonderful holiday and a very happy new year.


Dear readers,

Orders placed through the ANU Press website from Monday 15 December 2014 will not be processed until Monday 5 January 2015, when the Press offices reopen after the Christmas/New Year break. We would like to offer our warmest thanks for all your support throughout 2014.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


A Good Life

Human rights and encounters with modernity

Mary Edmunds

ISBN 9781922144669 (Print version) $33.00 (GST inclusive)
ISBN 9781922144676 (Online)
Published May 2013

Citation url:

This book is a story. It’s a story about ordinary people in very different parts of the world dealing with rapid change in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. It’s about times of turbulent and violent social upheaval and rupture with the past. It’s about modern times. It’s also about being human; what it is to be human in a modernising and globalising world; how, in responding to the circumstances of their times, different groups define, redefine, and attempt to put into practice their understandings of the good and of what constitutes a good life. And it’s about how human rights have come to be not abstract universal principles but a practical source of consciousness and practice for real people.

Drawing on the author’s experience as an anthropologist, the book examines different groups over the last three decades of the twentieth century and the first years of the twenty-first: Thai factory workers over a period of two coups in the 1970s; Spanish nuns in the 1980s, in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council and the end of the Franco dictatorship; Aboriginal people in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia dealing with the impact of late colonialism and moves towards self-determination, from the 1980s to the present. Each of these groups has its own stories, illuminating ways in which, despite the assault of modernisation on deeply held traditional beliefs and practices, particular cultural understandings and practices continue to shape people’s responses to their novel circumstances. The very diversity of the studies presented in the book raises some of the most compelling moral and social questions of our time and invites the reader, both academic and lay, to focus on what it is that makes us human; whether there are human universals as well as cultural particularities; whether human rights provide universal norms and practices; what unites as well as divides us; and where morality, and understandings of a good life, can be sourced in a secular modern world.

“This is a book about hope, the hope that we have ways to live together in a rapidly changing world which will enable us to ‘live a good life in the modern world.’”
Hon. Fred Chaney AO.

Please read Conditions of Use before downloading the formats

Download Free Formats

Updated: 6 May 2013/ Responsible Officer: Director, SIS and University Librarian / Page Contact: ANU Press