Anthropology | Law and Culture
E475 | 27066 | Stoeltje
Focusing on the relationship between law and society cross-culturally
this course examines systems developed by societies, small and large,
for resolving conflicts and for maintaining continuity and stability
over time. Consistent with the values and structures of a society,
legal systems set standards and establish rules, but they also provide
for the negotiation or resolution of disputes and differences through
courts or other dynamic sites of interaction. Moreover, in most
societies one finds more than one legal system operating, creating a
situation of legal pluralism. Building on these perspectives, the
class will explore anthropological studies of law within the following
categories: early studies by anthropologists of legal systems
considered “customary,” “folk,” or “indigenous,”; more recent studies
that take up problems such as “legal pluralism,” “law and
colonialism,” or the relationship between indigenous systems and the
state, or “access to justice” in any context. We will conclude with
attention to questions of human rights and intangible cultural
property. The course emphasizes the actual performance and practice
of legal issues in courts or other contexts. The various legal systems
represented in the readings and presentations will include selected
ones from Native American, African, Trobriand Islands, and Islamic
societies, as well as studies addressing contemporary issues such as
human rights, gender and law, cultural justice, and intellectual
property. Guest speakers will speak on specific problems in the
anthropology of law.
Students will write reviews of specific readings and present them in
class. Two papers will be required: one short paper at mid-point
through the semester, and one long paper (20 pages) at the end of the
semester on a specific legal system in a specific culture, or, on a
specific problem in the anthropology of law identified in the class
(e.g., legal pluralism, human rights, gender and law, restorative
Readings will be available through e reserves and textbooks.
Additional readings will be placed on reserve.
Texts: Cowan, Jane, M.B. Dembour, Richard Wilson, eds. Culture and
Rights: Anthropological Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. 2001.
Sarat, Austin & Thomas Kearns, eds. Law in the Domains of Culture.
University of Michigan Press. 1998.
Stoeltje, Beverly, ed. Women, Language, and Law in Africa. Special
Issue of Africa Today. Vol. 49. 2002.
(This list of texts could change.)