28 November 2012

NOTICE/CALL FOR PAPERS: PoLAR & 'Internationalizing Custom and Localizing Law'

The editor of PoLAR, the Political and Legal Anthropology Review, has circulated an email noting, of the latest issue:
In addition to the scholarly pieces and book reviews that you’ve come to expect from PoLAR, this issue features a special symposium on Transparency. The introduction, Transparency in Triads, by Andrea Ballestero S. nicely frames the collection of articles, explaining that they render “the dyad transparency/opacity into a triad by incorporating a series of third elements that reveal expected and unexpected bureaucratic, epistemological, and affective connections.”

Also, if you go to PoLAR's website, http://www.polaronline.org/, you'll see with this issue, we've featured a new postscript by Chelsey L. Kivland, author of Unmaking the State in "Occupied" Haiti.

In addition, the journal's issued a call for papers for a special issue on 'Internationalizing Custom and Localizing Law': 

The theme of this special issue is an endeavor to re-evaluate and update what may at first blush appear to be a thoroughly old-fashioned or “folkloristic” set of ideas for anthropologists: the concept of custom, particularly as it is deployed in relation to the concept of law. The presumed shrinking of the contemporary world has had interesting and documentable implications for the anthropology of law. Throughout the 20th century, much of the energy of this subdiscipline was concentrated in finding practices that “looked like” law in societies that were presumed either to have “no law” or to be subject to legal regimes that were deemed alien to the principles of Euro-American jurisprudence, that is, religious, tribal, or “customary law.” Much of the development of legal anthropology, and the early theoretical debates within it, had to do with exploring the limits of precisely this custom/law analogy. Decolonization saw a shift away from these debates, as they seemed very much of their time and place in the late years of the colonial period.

The project at the turn of the recent century changed due both to this shift in focus and to the migration of the concepts of law and custom out of the domains in which they had once formally been located. Anthropologists have moved from tracking analogies between their own legal systems, and those of categorical others, to tracking the ways these analogies have been appropriated by postcolonial governments, international courts and treaties, and states debating over whether multiculturalism invigorates or threatens the course of justice. Custom crops up periodically in such debates, sometimes simply as a version of culture, at other times as a more nuanced category of practices or social relationships, but nearly always as a marker of what people deem to be their patrimonial or authentic models for resolving disputes, ending conflicts, and staking claims.

Meanwhile, mediation and disputing processes seen as emergent from such local regimes are circulating in all manner of translocal contexts, such as the New Zealand Family Group Conferences, themselves based on putatively Maori mediation techniques, and adopted by restorative justice projects elsewhere in the Anglophone legal world. The category of customary law may alternatively be revived, reinvented, or rediscovered by new states asserting their originary distinctiveness from previous political or cultural regimes. And to complicate the picture even further, international law itself is acknowledged to be subject to its own “custom,” or corpus of precedents on which jurists and politicians working in a transnational context can draw, such as the laws of war.

It is finally important to note that anthropologists no longer own the custom concept. It continues regularly to be enrolled, whether as customary, adat, or tribal law, in the discourse of law and policy practitioners throughout the postcolony and the Fourth World. It may be regarded positively as a means of asserting nationhood or culturebased claims, or problematically as a hindrance to the universal applicability of a body of national or international law. In either case the custom concept has not gone away, and it behooves anthropologists of law to attend to the concepts that our interlocutors are still using, and sometimes using in surprising contexts or to unanticipated ends.

All these influences serve to complicate the project of legal anthropology in fruitful ways, not least because they require anthropologists to attend to the ways in which their own earlier attempts to localize law are now refracted back at them through the prism of the apparently limitless capacity of law to adapt to, or be appropriated into, new contexts. This special issue therefore seeks to assess critically the project of documenting local legal regimes or their movement through time and space, when the very act of identifying them as local is what sets them in motion in a world in which all “custom” is potentially universalizable, and all “law” potentially an artifact of cultural and temporal specificity. 

Please submit your articles and essays to us at PolarJournal@gmail.com 

Articles received by January 15, 2013 will be considered for this issue

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