Legal anthropology  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Legal anthropology, also known as the anthropology of laws, is a sub-discipline of anthropology which specializes in "the cross-cultural study of social ordering". The questions that Legal Anthropologists seek to answer concern how is law present in cultures? How does it manifest? How may anthropologists contribute to understandings of law?

Earlier legal anthropological research focused more narrowly on conflict management, crime, sanctions, or formal regulation. Bronisław Malinowski's 1926 work, Crime and Custom in Savage Society, explored law, order, crime, and punishment among the Trobriand Islanders. The English lawyer Sir Henry Maine is often credited with founding the study of Legal Anthropology through his book Ancient Law (1861). An ethno-centric evolutionary perspective was pre-eminent in early Anthropological discourse on law, evident through terms applied such as ‘pre-law’ or ‘proto-law’ in describing indigenous cultures. However, though Maine’s evolutionary framework has been largely rejected within the discipline, the questions he raised have shaped the subsequent discourse of the study. Moreover, the 1926 publication of Crime and Custom in Savage Society by Malinowski based upon his time with the Trobriand Islanders, further helped establish the discipline of legal anthropology. Through emphasizing the order present in acephelous societies, Malinowski proposed the cross-cultural examining of law through its established functions as opposed to a discrete entity. This has led to multiple researchers and ethnographies examining such aspects as order, dispute, conflict management, crime, sanctions, or formal regulation, in addition (and often antagonistically) to law-centred studies, with small-societal studies leading to insightful self-reflections and better understanding of the founding concept of law.

Contemporary research in legal anthropology has sought to apply its framework to issues at the intersections of law and culture, including human rights, legal pluralism, Islamophobia and political uprisings.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Legal anthropology" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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