Anthropology and Law - SE507

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2020 to 2021.


Law is often assumed to stand 'outside' of society, either because it is ‘above’ us or even ‘behind’ us, as in ‘society changes too fast for the law to keep up’. This module proposes law as an ethnographic subject, that is, a field of action governed by rather than governing social and cultural sensibilities. If, according to a classic cliché, anthropologists look for relationships while lawyers look for rules, the module will examine how social relationships can come to appear rule-like to legal and anthropological studies alike. Since lawyers in fact contributed to the early formation of the discipline of anthropology, anthropology itself may be seen as the product of a legalistic classification of human relations. The curriculum will therefore proceed through the history of the relationship between anthropology and law as disciplines and through ethnographic material from different legal environments. In doing so it will consider subjects such as language, gender, class, and religion and their effects upon the experiences of people involved in processes of dispute and its resolution. Finally the module will investigate how well law ‘travels’ between societies, and between different levels of the same society: for instance, how do concepts such as legal pluralism, the cultural defence, and universal human rights affect the theory and practice of law?


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 128
Total study hours: 150


BA Social Anthropology

Method of assessment

Case study presentation (20%)
Essay (30%)2,000 words
Examination (2 hours) (50%)

Indicative reading

Learning outcomes

8.1 Demonstrate advanced knowledge surrounding the main themes and trends in legal anthropology
8.2 Articulate an in-depth understanding of the relationship between law and anthropology as individual disciplines
8.3 Understand the international circulation of legal forms as artefacts historically of colonialism and currently of globalisation
8.4 Demonstrate the ability to critically analyse legal processes , and locate them in the social organisation and cultural value systems of particular societies
8.5 Analyse and develop advanced communication skills to demonstrate their understanding of anthropological texts in written and spoken contexts
8.6 Develop and construct coherent and logical arguments, particularly in written form, combining general theoretical writings with the discussion of ethnographic data.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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