Folklore | Law & Society
F755 | 16355 | B. Stoeltje
Meets with Anth-E475 and E675, Amst-G620. 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
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.
Cowan, Jane, M.B. Dembour, Richard Wilson, eds. Culture and
Rights: Anthropological Perspectives. Cambridge University Press.
Moore, Sally Falk, ed. Law and Anthropology: A Reader. Blackwell.
Beverly Stoeltje,ed. Women, Language and Law in Africa: Africa
Today, special Issue. Vol. 49, #2, 2002.