JJUA55078U Anthropology of Law - NOTE: Cancelled in the spring semester 2016

Volume 2015/2016

The course intends to provide a basis for understanding and analyzing the role of law in society from the perspective of anthropological theory and method. Over the past few decades, anthropological theory has been paying increasing attention to law, while lawyers and policy makers have become more attentive to the cultural contexts of legal rules. International laws, human rights issues and the intensification of migration and thus presence of large ethnic minority groups within nation states are but some of the developments that have contributed to this increasingly overlapping interest between anthropology and law. While the traditional project of legal anthropologists has been the study of non-Western settings, often pointing to the logic and moral sense of their seemingly “exotic” practices, research is now additionally considering the socio-legal aspects of the modern state, and in this process often deconstructing taken-for-granted assumptions about the objectivity and rationality of Western law. Against this background, the course aims to develop the capacity of students to formulate critical analyses of legal practices, and to understand the social and cultural context of legal institutions in both Western and non-Western societies. The course will be thematically centred on analysing law as conflict, law as process, law and rights, and finally, law as power. This will be done both at a theoretical and a methodological level. Fieldwork methods are at the core of anthropological inquiry into legal matters, asking specific questions in specific settings about the distribution of power, control and justice in relation to law – how are legal norms established, and how are they enforced, justified, or even evaded?

The course will consist of three major components:

• An introduction to the field of legal anthropology. The aim is to enhance the students’ assessment of the development of theoretical discussions and focal points within the field.

• A thorough analysis of present issues at the core of anthropology of law with an emphasis on ethnicity, gender, human rights, and the relation between law, language and power. Students will identify and critically discuss these topics, especially focusing on competing claims and contested norms and values within larger, formal law systems.

• A study of methodological aspects within legal anthropology. Empirical data will be analyzed and discussed in order to enhance students’ ability to use and evaluate this type of data in their social analysis of legal issues. During this component, students will be called for to work on an empirical project, preferably in groups. This can be done either by collecting qualitative data themselves, by analysing empirical material from the curriculum, or in the form of interviews and field notes from the teacher’s own fieldwork. This part will end with a short report and an oral presentation by the students in class. The written exam (essay) can take its point of departure in this project.

Learning Outcome

• Obtain knowledge about the historical development and core issues within the field of legal anthropology

Analyse and critically discuss the relation between law and society, as well as the cultural context of legal institutions

Use and critically evaluate qualitative data about legal settings

• Work independently with a socio-legal topic in the form of a shorter, group oriented, empirical project

The syllabus will consist of socio-legal articles as well as excerpts from monographs. All course material is in English and will be uploaded on Absalon.

Number of pages: 700

-To develop students' ability to draw upon perspectives and results from social sciences in the analysis of legal problems
-To be able to identify and discuss legal and societal problems in a national as well as an international context
-To critically reflect on law's role in society
The course will consist of lectures as well as presentations of syllabus texts by the students. Active participation in discussions in class will be encouraged and expected. A short project is intended to give students a practical introduction to relevant methods from anthropological and sociological professions, with an emphasis on qualitative data. The project will also encourage students' work autonomy and ability to identify relevant socio-legal problems
Provisions on form requirements can be found in the exam catalogue on the online Study Pages.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Guidance
  • 1
  • Preparation
  • 364,5
  • Project work
  • 11
  • Seminar
  • 36
  • Total
  • 412,5
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Individual written assignment
Exam registration requirements

- one presentation in class of a syllabus text,
- carrying out a short, empirical project which will result in a short report and a presentation in class.

Censorship form
No external censorship
Exam period

June 3, 2016


August 01.-15, 2016 (preliminary dates)

Criteria for exam assesment

The essay exam form is intended to give students the possibility of working in-depth with a chosen topic within the confines of the course.

The essay should reflect students':
- knowledge of the field of legal anthropology,
- their skills in identifying and critically reflecting upon a socio-legal problem,
- their ability to discuss this problem by independently drawing upon syllabus texts as well as qualitative data from the course project.