The current process of increasing globalisation, transnationalism and a seeming homogenisation is accompanied by a worldwide trend towards the revitalisation of local traditions, structures, meanings and values, especially in the field of so-called traditional or customary law. This essay introduces the contributions of the special issue The revitalisation of tradition that strives to trace and ... [Show full abstract] analyse such processes. The articles are based on anthropological research conducted in different continents and show that revitalisation of traditions should not be confused with a return to the past. To the contrary, it often involves explicitly future-oriented strategies albeit not always in line with "western" ideals of democracy, human rights and emancipation, but rather with local discourses of identity, decision-making and equality. The ethnographic studies demonstrate how power games and negotiations between local, state and international agents shape such processes of revitalisation. They are not concerned with determining what "tradition ' is or should be, but with the positioning of diverse agents, with the options, conflicts and limitations that these positions entail, and with exposing the changing power structures and "cultural realities" involved.