Anthropology and Law

The anthropology of law is a key subfield within anthropology. Over the past twenty-five years, anthropologists have studied and analyzed the ways in which new forms of law–such as human rights–have reshaped important questions of citizenship, indigenous movements, and biotechnology, among others. Meanwhile, the rise of international law and processes of transnational justice have posed ethical and intellectual challenges to anthropologists, revealing the need for a comprehensive overview of the field.

Anthropology and Law offers a broad analysis of the ways in which anthropologists have studied, interacted with, and critiqued the law–as systems of enforceable rules, ethical norms, frameworks for political action, and categories of identity. Mark Goodale introduces central problems in the anthropology of law, traces the development of the field, and builds on the legacy of its intellectual history. The book explores the new overlap of law, politics, and technology and surveys the contributions that anthropologists have made to our understanding of them.

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Chapters cover a range of intersecting areas that reflect the dynamism in the contemporary anthropology of law, including language and law, history, justice, regulation, indigenous rights, and gender. The volume concludes by examining the ultimate limits of law in the face of existing global and economic conflicts, considering what it would mean to develop an ecological approach to law based in new forms of solidarity and pluralism.

“By offering a personal account of the interdisciplinary nexus of anthropology and law, Goodale offers something more than an overview of a sub-discipline. He provides insight into (and through) a personal quest for knowledge, premised on breaking down the boundaries that regularly divide disciplines, realms of practice, and schools of thought. Goodale offers intellectual history, social theory, and politico-legal analysis in an accessible overview of a field that, in his hands, returns to the most ambitious questions of our time, the place of law in social development, political transition, protection of the dispossessed and marginalized, and, the ultimate anthropological question, how identity is shaped, how law influences who we are and how we belong.”

Ronald Niezen, Department of Anthropology and Faculty of Law, McGill University

“Mark Goodale’s Anthropology and Law is simultaneously an introduction to the field and a sophisticated exploration of recent developments in legal anthropology that is sure to spark interest among experts in the area. It combines an erudite review of the history of the field with a creative and thoughtful synthesis that inventively maps emerging scholarship.​”

Elizabeth Mertz, Senior Research Faculty, American Bar Foundation​