'Soft law' practices, anthropologists and legal scholars 
Filippo Zerilli
Julie Trappe (University of Heidelberg)
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Wednesday 27 August, 9:00-10:45, 11:00-12:45, 14:00-15:45 (UTC+0)

Short Abstract:

This panel invites anthropologists and legal scholars to provide empirical studies of soft law practices within diverse social fields (migration, trade, bioethics, anti-terrorism strategies, etc). It will be also an opportunity to reflect upon diversity/mutuality between law and anthropology today.

Long Abstract

'Soft law' has undoubtedly acquired a prominent position in the making of a global legal order. Designating quasi-legal instruments, such as 'principles of conduct', 'guidelines', 'code of practices', 'declarations', it is widely used by non-state actors such as the IMF and the WTO and by transnational political institutions such as the UN, the EU and even the G8. This panel invites empirical (ethnographic) case studies of its concrete functioning within any politicised social field (migration policies, trade agreements, bioethics, security and anti-terrorism strategies, human rights etc). Relevant questions include: how does soft low operate in the realm of social relations, how is it concretely fabricated and by whom? From which sites do its principles and codes of practices emanate? What is the interconnection, if any, between hard and soft law? What is the social logic of their often unquestioned separation? To which extent can soft law be considered the product of a paradigmatic shift from the sovereignty of state law to the supranational legal order of 'fast capitalism'? Is soft law an expression of an increasing economisation of the juridical typical of neoliberal ideology? Who benefits from it and why? We also very much wish the panel to be taken as an opportunity to reflect upon the diversity and mutuality which exist between the disciplines of law and anthropology today, asking how they respectively contribute to the understanding of the contemporary transformation of law (and anthropology) and the production of a global legal order.

Accepted papers: