American Studies | Seminar in American Studies / Topic: Ritual, Festival and Public Culture
G751 | 30002 | Beverly Stoeltje
3 cr. hrs.
Class meets with ANTH-E 678 and FOLK-F 535
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 in the U.S. 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.
Sarat, Austin & Thomas Kearns, eds. Law in the Domains of Culture.
University of Michigan Press. 1998.
Sally Falk Moore, ed. Law and Anthropology: A Reader.
Others to be announced.
On line: Stoeltje, Beverly, ed. Women, Language, and Law in
Africa. Special Issue: Africa Today.