Anthropology of Law

Graduate Seminar in Cultural Anthropology

Offered at the University of California, Riverside, Fall 2012

This course is a graduate-level seminar on anthropology and law. The course is oriented around several overarching and overlapping sets of questions. The first set concerns the emergence and transformation of legal anthropology in relation to the larger history of the discipline. The second concerns the relations between different legal and normative systems, including such topics as the relation of customary law to colonial and postcolonial legal orders, and universalist human rights. The third concerns the degrees to which law is both embedded in--and relatively autonomous from--culture, society, and processes of historical change. The fourth concerns the question of how to study law anthropologically: readings for the course will include a number of classic texts in anthropology and social and legal theory, as well as contemporary ethnography, history and theory; these reflect a range of approaches, from archival studies of legal decisions and cases to ethnographies of courtroom proceedings. Finally we will consider the claim that politics are increasingly being conducted through legal means in the neoliberal era, examining the use of the law by a range of historically marginalized actors.

A few notes

With some serious misgivings, I have decided to host materials for this course on iLearn (UCR's Blackboard installation) rather than on a public site. Feel free to contact me with questions.