The Anthropology of Law

ISBN : 9780199696840

Fernanda Pirie
288 Pages
143 x 222 mm
Pub date
Oct 2013
Clarendon Law Series
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Questions about the nature of law, its relationship with custom, and the form of legal rules, categories and claims, are placed at the centre of this challenging, yet accessible, introduction. Anthropology of law is presented as a distinctive subject within the broader field of legal anthropology, suggesting new avenues of inquiry for the anthropologist, while also bringing empirical studies within the ambit of legal scholarship. The Anthropology of Law considers contemporary debates on human rights, international laws, and new forms of property alongside ethnographic studies of order and conflict resolution. It also delves into the rich corpus of texts and codes studied by legal historians, classicists and orientalists: the great legal systems of ancient China, India, and the Islamic world, unjustly neglected by anthropologists, are examined alongside forms of law created on their peripheries. Ancient codes, medieval coutumes, village constitutions, and tribal laws provide rich empirical detail for the author's analysis of the cross-cultural importance of the form of law, as text or rule, and carefully-selected examples shed new light upon the interrelations and distinctions between laws, custom, and justice. Legalism is taken as the starting point for inquiry into the nature and functions of law, and its roles as an instrument of government, a subject of scholarship, and an assertion of moral order. An argument unfolds concerning the tensions between legalistic thought and argument, and the ideological or aspirational claims to embody justice, morality, and religious truth, which lie at the heart of what we think of as law.


1. Introduction
2. Order, Disputes, and Legal Pluralism
3. Legal Thought: Meaning and Form
4. Law as an Intellectual Tradition
5. Idealism, Tradition, and Authority
6. Legalism
7. Morality and Community
8. Law and the State
9. Conclusion

About the author: 

Fernanda Pirie is a University Lecturer in socio-legal studies at the University of Oxford, and Director of the University's Centre for Socio-Legal Studies. An anthropologist by training, following a career at the London Bar, she has carried out fieldwork for over a decade on the Tibetan plateau. Her studies have centred on conflict resolution, social order, and tribe-state relations, and have lead to publications on violence, conflict, order, and disorder. More recently she has been working on the nature of legalism on the Tibetan plateau. She is a coordinator of the Oxford Legalism project, which brings together scholars from law, history, anthropology, classics, and oriental studies in a series of seminars and workshops, in order to compare examples of legalistic texts, practices, and thought from across the world.

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