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Doing justice justice? Methodological and theoretical challenges in the anthropological study of legal historical archives II 
Raluca Bianca Roman (University of St Andrews)
Sarah Bennison (St Andrews University)
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Thursday 1 April, 11:15-12:45 (UTC+1)

Short Abstract:

This panel explores the anthropological significance, political relevance, and the theoretical/methodological challenges of community-focused legal archives. In doing so, the panel seeks to address the issue of representation and responsibility, through an analysis of 'paperwork' as 'patchwork'

Long Abstract

What are the challenges faced by anthropologists working with legal texts at the community or ethnic-group level? Who speaks for whom within such spaces and how can the anthropologist account for all voices while considering the historically contextualised nature of such materials? This panel aims to explore the anthropological significance of community-focused legal archives (legal letters, lawsuits, statutes, petitions and other normative inscriptive media), particularly in contexts in which such materials were produced in times prior to the 'ethnographic present'. Furthermore, the panel seeks to address questions of power, identity construction, ethnicity and indigeneity in official domains which aspire to be inclusive in their representation of all members of the represented group yet are often essentialising and selective in their representation. Finally, it aims to look at the ways in which we can adequately account for the common yet methodologically challenging presence of self-editing, additions/corrections, in-text disagreement(s). In other words, what does the evolving, amended, and at times silenced nature of these 'legal' texts tell us about the constructed, politically-charged nature of community 'issues' and how does authorship translate into issues of representation? We invite abstracts from anthropologists and interdisciplinary scholars working on these issues, from a diversity of ethnographic contexts. Papers concerning the construction of categories (i.e. ethnicity, community, nation, etc.) within legal documents and their importance in the shaping of the ethnographic moment are particularly welcome. We also encourage reflexive engagements concerning not only the challenges but the potential resolutions concerning the anthropological value of such materials.

Accepted papers: