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240536 SE Claiming rights. Social movements and their ambivalence towards law (P4) (2019S)

Prüfungsimmanente Lehrveranstaltung

Participation at first session is obligatory!



max. 25 Teilnehmer*innen
Sprache: Englisch


Termine (iCal) - nächster Termin ist mit N markiert

Montag 27.05. 09:45 - 13:00 Seminarraum A, NIG 4. Stock
Dienstag 28.05. 09:45 - 13:00 Seminarraum A, NIG 4. Stock


Ziele, Inhalte und Methode der Lehrveranstaltung

In this seminar, we examine the role of law in social protest movements. The introduction reviews the different theoretical positions on the relationship between law and society’s powerstructure in legal theory and the philosophy of law. The main part compares two main approaches to law and power in the anthropology of law. We examine theanthropological scepticism towards law, expressed in the critique of law as a means to stabilise social inequalities on different scales. And we explore the opposite position that examineshow law is used in manifold ways as a ‘weapon of the weak’ in order to protest against social inequality and strive for social change through the transformation of law.
Beyond the reading and discussion of the theoretical literature, the seminar gives some insights into the ongoing research project Creeping Death on social movements’ legal struggles against the asbestos industry in Italy and its deadly legacy.
With this combination of theoretical debates and the analysis of an ethnographic case study, this seminar introduces the students to some key ideas of the anthropology of law.
Course Outline
Introduction: The heritage
- Introduction
- Law as a mere reflection of the infrastructure or law as the guarantee of individual freedom?
- Law and power: the materialist dogma versus the liberal imagination of law
Readings: Marx, Hobbes a.o.
Part I: Critique of law as social criticism
- The rule of law as law of ruling
- International law and (neo-)colonialism
- Law and the organisation of irresponsibility
Readings: Scott, Mattei and Nader, Veitch a.o.
Part II: Mobilising the law
- The secret power of law
- Law against the state
- Transformation of law
- Juridification of indigenous politics
Readings: Coutin, Kirsch a.o.

Art der Leistungskontrolle und erlaubte Hilfsmittel

The students will be required to write a short essay (3’500 words) on one of the key concepts discussed in the seminar. The essay makes reference to selected literature of the course and includes further literature. Please send your text to david.loher@anthro.unibe.ch within six weeks after the completion of the seminar.

Mindestanforderungen und Beurteilungsmaßstab

In the essay, students are able to critically discuss a selected key concept. They refer to the relevant literature and are able to reproduce the main arguments. They compare the key concept under discussion to further competing ideas and are able to identify its potentials and flaws.



Core reading for the seminar will be communicated in advance.
Hobbes, Thomas, and William George Pogson Smith. 2018. Hobbes’s Leviathan. Reprinted from the edition of 1651. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Eckert, Julia. 2012. Rumours of Rights. In Law Against the State: Ethnographic Forays Into Law’s Transformations, ed. Julia M. Eckert, Brian Donahoe, Christian Strümpell, and Zerrin Özlem Biner, 147170. Cambridge Studies in Law and Society. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Kirsch, Stuart. 2001. Lost Worlds: Environmental Disaster, "Culture Loss," and the Law. Current Anthropology 42: 167198.
Mattei, Ugo, and Laura Nader. 2008. Plunder: when the rule of law is illegal. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Pub.
Marx, Karl. 1977. Capital: a critique of political economy. Edited by Ben Fowkes. New York: Vintage Books. (Chapter 28: pp. 896-904)
Scott, James C. 1998. Seeing Like a State. How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. Yale Agrarian Studies. New Haven, London: Yale University Press.
Veitch, Scott. 2007. Law and irresponsibility. On the legitimation of human suffering. Abingdon: Routledge-Cavendish.

Zuordnung im Vorlesungsverzeichnis

Letzte Änderung: Mo 07.09.2020 15:40