Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Introduction to Legal Anthropology

LEVEL 01 - Year 1 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION This study-unit is primarily intended to introduce students to the characteristic features of an anthropological approach to law and to use this approach as a vehicle for a cross-cultural contextual investigation of legal institutions and discourses, which explores the different ways in which they are socially embedded and addresses fundamental questions about order, conflict, violence and human nature. Particular attention will be paid to exploring the interdependence between social and legal theory and to showing how this has shaped ethnographic inquiry. Rene Girard’s theory of mimetic rivalry will also be introduced in order to assess its potential for generating new questions in the field. The unit will consist of 14 two-hour sessions. Students will be assessed by means of a exam at the end of the first term. They will also be expected to do assigned compulsory readings and to participate actively in class discussions. For some lectures, printed class-notes will also be circulated.

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this unit, students should:

• Be in a position to appreciate the variety of ways in which law can and has been defined and the various dimensions of legal institution, rules and processes that each of these definitions points to;
• Have developed a certain understanding of the differences and similarities between legal institutions, rules and processes in state-less and modern societies;
• Be able to appreciate the interdependent relationship between social and legal theories and of the various ways in which law is socially and culturally embedded in different societies;
• Have understood various practical contributions which legal anthropologists have made to legal practice, ranging from ADR to the Cultural Defense;
• Be able to provide thoughtful and creative solutions to the problems of law and order which arise in today’s multi-cultural and globalised world.

Selected Bibliography:

• Sally Falk Moore “Law and Anthropology: A Reader” Oxford: Blackwell Publications (2004)
• Norbert Rouland “Legal Anthropology” Stanford University Press (1994)
• Bronislaw Malinowski “Crime and Custom in Savage Society” (1926).


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM1 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Ibtisam Sadegh
David E. Zammit

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It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.