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Accepted paper:

What is "law" in Africa? Africa and Europe and the relational dynamics of knowledge


Annelien Bouland (Leiden University)

Paper long abstract:

Inspired by Birgit Meyer's lecture at the "Africa: 60 years of independence" conference and on the basis of a literature review, this paper will ask: what is "law" in Africa? I approach the question from a perspective that is both historical and relational, foregrounding the entanglements between Europe and Africa. Doing so I aim to answer three separate sub-questions : (1) What are the implications in Africa of the introduction of the category of "law" by colonial administrations and scholars in Africa? (2) What are the implications for European scholarship of the introduction of "law" by colonial administrations and scholars in Africa? (3) What are some current initiatives to revise understandings of "law" in Africa? As may be expected, answering these separate questions will expose the power dynamics involved the knowledge production of law in Africa. Taken together, I argue that the tensions around the concept of law are a productive point of departure for thinking about what decolonized legal studies and socio-legal studies could entail.

panel D22
Disciplinary trends in Africa: legal and socio-legal studies