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Course meetings: Tuesday and Thursday, Physics Building 218, 2-3:15pm

Instructor: Allison Alexy
Office: Brooks Hall 207
alexy [at]
Office hours: Wednesday 2:30 to 4:30pm, and by appointment. Check Collab’s “Sign-up” tab to sign up for office hours, and email me if there are problems.

This course is an introduction to legal anthropology for graduate students or advanced undergraduates. At the intersection of legal studies and anthropology, this sub-discipline examines the role of law in, of, and through culture and society. Key questions include: How are legal systems shaped by culture? How are cultures shaped by legal systems? Can we view law as a cultural system with all the attendant implications this brings? Following cultural relativism, are all legal systems equal? Can global or international justice exist? How do we use anthropology to investigate legal demands, beliefs, and actors? What is the relationship between law and social change?

This course investigates key anthropological questions through the lens of law systems, legal argumentation, and people’s interactions with these thoughts and forms. Rather than taking as given the hegemonic power that legal structures might hold over people’s lives and thought, this course questions how people use, abuse, subvert, and leverage the legal structures in which they find themselves, while paying attention to how law constructs power. Broadly, we will be investigating how law matters in everyday lives in various cultural contexts.