Legalism: Anthropology and History

Hardcover | September 30, 2012

EditorPaul Dresch, Hannah Skoda

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Law and law-like institutions are visible in human societies very distant from each other in time and space. When it comes to observing and analysing such social constructs historians, anthropologists, and lawyers run into notorious difficulties in how to conceptualize them. Do they conform toa single category of 'law'? How are divergent understandings of the nature and purpose of law to be described and explained? Such questions reach to the heart of philosophical attempts to understand the nature of law, but arise whenever we are confronted by law-like practices and concepts insocieties not our own.In this volume leading historians and anthropologists with an interest in law gather to analyse the nature and meaning of law in diverse societies. They start from the concept of legalism, taken from the anthropologist Lloyd Fallers, whose 1960s work on Africa engaged, unusually, with jurisprudence.The concept highlights appeal to categories and rules. The degree to which legalism in this sense informs people's lives varies within and between societies, and over time, but it can colour equally both 'simple' and 'complex' law. Breaking with recent emphases on 'practice', nine specialistcontributors explore, in a wide-ranging set of cases, the place of legalism in the workings of social life.The essays make obvious the need to question our parochial common sense where ideals of moral order at other times and places differ from those of modern North Atlantic governance. State-centred law, for instance, is far from a 'central case'. Legalism may be 'aspirational', connecting people towider visions of morality; duty may be as prominent a theme as rights; and rulers from thirteenth-century England to sixteenth-century Burma appropriate, as much they impose, a vision of justice as consistency. The use of explicit categories and rules does not reduce to simple questions of power.The cases explored range from ancient Asia Minor to classical India, and from medieval England and France to Saharan oases and southern Arabia. In each case they assume no knowledge of the society or legal system discussed. The volume will appeal not only to historians and anthropologists with aninterest in law, but to students of law engaged in legal theory, for the light it sheds on the strengths and limitations of abstract legal philosophy.

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Law and law-like institutions are visible in human societies very distant from each other in time and space. When it comes to observing and analysing such social constructs historians, anthropologists, and lawyers run into notorious difficulties in how to conceptualize them. Do they conform toa single category of 'law'? How are diverge...

Paul Dresch is Fellow by Special Election at St John's College, Oxford, and University Lecturer in Social Anthropology. He has worked in both Yemen and the Arab Gulf. His first book Tribes, Government, and History in Yemen (OUP, 1989) remains a central reference on Yemeni history and ethnography. He has also published A History of Mode...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:368 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 1.04 inPublished:September 30, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199664269

ISBN - 13:9780199664269

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Table of Contents

Paul Dresch: Legalism, Anthropology, and History: A View from Part of AnthropologyHannah Skoda: A Historian's Perspective on the Present Volume1. Georgy Kantor: Ideas of Law in Hellenistic and Roman Legal Practice2. Donald Davis Jr: Centres of Law: Duties, Rights, and Pluralism in Medieval India3. T.B. Lambert: The Evolution of Sanctuary in Medieval England4. Paul Dresch: Aspects of Non-State Law: Early Yemen and Perpetual Peace5. Paul Brand: The English Medieval Common Law (to c. 1307) as a System of National Institutions and Legal Rules: Creation and Functioning6. Judith Scheele: Rightful Measures: Irrigation, Land, and the Shari'ah in the Algerian Touat7. Andrew Huxley: Lord Kyaw Thu's Precedent: a Sixteenth-Century Burmese Law-Report8. Malcolm Vale: Custom, Combat, and the Study of Laws: Montesquieu Revisited9. Hannah Skoda: Legal Performances in Late Medieval France