ANTHRO 1603 - The Law and Its Limits: Anthropological Approaches to Law





Prof. Malavika Reddy
Tues. 12:00 PM - 2:45 PM
Tozzer 203

We often talk about the power of law to shape our worlds but what about its powerlessness? An axiom of contemporary life is that societies need law to address social, political and environmental ills. Yet, in the face of entrenched problems, including expanding who belongs, tackling inequality, and confronting environmental crisis, law often appears impotent or, worse, detrimental. This course grapples with the simultaneous hunger for and weakness of law, its power and its powerlessness, by guiding students through an exploration of the following questions. How, why and to whose benefit or expense is the legal posed as an answer to political and social problems? What can we learn from situations in which law harms? Who resists law? How does legal process transform conflict and define the terms of its resolution? What is the relationship between law and violence? The course will seek answers to these questions via an engagement with the ethnographic – close readings of a variety of judicial processes -- and the theoretical. In so doing, the course will be guided by three objectives: 1. to introduce students to the anthropological study of law; 2. to compile a toolkit of methods and concepts with which social scientists have studied law; and 3. to trouble commonsense pieties about law and its place in social life.