obscure-sub-field-of-anthropology corner
March 17, 2008 6:16 AM   Subscribe

What can you (you wonderful, bright, worldly people, you) tell me about legal anthropology? I'd like to know about its ideological construction, presence in academia, personal experiences, applications in the non-academic world, and whatever you've got. Thanks!
posted by clockzero to Society & Culture (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
As I law student hanging out at a party with Anthro PhDs this weekend, this came up a few times. There is almost no presence in legal education and the little interdisciplinary work that is done is usually done by Anthro professors w/o a legal background. This is surprising, given recent hiring trends in legal academia, but it does not seem to have been picked up. A lot of interest seems to resolve around the intersection of human rights law and field work, especially in post-conflict situations.

I personally can see this having potential to make an impact in the future, but I'll admit, I'm skeptical. The legal world has a long ways to go before it takes seriously coursework in theories of subjectivity. At the same time, academic anthroplogy is structured around a fetishization of complexity and would hold its nose when forced to deal with non-intellectual and straightforward rules/standards. Different loci of focus (IHR lawyers often don't focus on a single country, let alone a single region, or a group of people within a community) and publishing styles makes me believe that any fusion is not likely to come any time soon.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:30 AM on March 17, 2008

I followed a class called "legal anthropology" when in law school. I think I can dig up the name of the professor if you want. Feel free to PM me.

It was definitely one of the more interesting courses I took - it's useful to think about the renaissance and the birth of humanism and what not, but 'applications in the non-academic world'? Not so much, I think, unless you want to go lecture about the importance of "personal and undivisible rights" in Kabul or something.
posted by NekulturnY at 7:32 AM on March 17, 2008

< snip from NekulturnY >
lecture about the importance of "personal and undivisible rights" in Kabul or something.
< /snip >

I had a friend / colleague who actually did some of this. He was part of a team that went around and consulted with eastern European (ex-soviet) countries and helped them write constitutions. Crazy but true. I think that this was paid work, but it was definitely part of some university-governmental program and not just like "freelance" constitution work. I think that there was a think tank involved, but definitely some A-list academics and I think their institutions were integral in making this happen.
posted by zpousman at 8:25 AM on March 17, 2008

This is not my obscure subfield of anthropology, but I can tell you that the American Anthropological Association has a section for this: Association for Political and Legal Anthropology. Unfortunately, there isn't much content on their site, but they do have a listserv you might be able to join. They publish a journal, Political and Legal Anthropology Review, that you may be able to access if you're affiliated with an institution that has a subscription (you can subscribe for $49/year).

Have you tried searching for syllabi from legal anthropology courses? Here are a few:

Anthropology and Law seminar at UIUC
Anthropology of Law at Southern Illinois University
Reading list from Political and Legal Anthropology course at LSE
posted by splendid animal at 10:53 PM on March 17, 2008

« Older Moving to Portland   |   Questions about tranferring money overseas Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.