Accepted paper:

Transforming traditions: myths and stereotypes about traditional law in a globalizing world

Authors:

Keebet von Benda-Beckmann (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology Halle/Saale, Germany)
Franz von Benda-Beckmann (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

The paper critically evaluates the discussions of the invention of tradition in light of the Ducht Adatrechtschool and the current re-emergence of tradition.

Paper long abstract:

Processes of globalization and decentralization and the political interest in local tradition, call for a critical examination of the deconstructivist literature. This paper discusses the analytical problems and the political context for which the term adatrecht was created by the Dutch scholar Cornelis van Vollenhoven who laid the foundations of the Adatrechtschool and compare this with the context in which the creation of history was criticized in the 1970s and 1980s, and the political context in which the issue has resurfaced in light of globalization. We shall argue that the evaluation of this work was largely based on a rather legalistic conception of "law", underrated the degree of continuity of local legal orders in most parts of Indonesia, and grossly overrated the actual significance of these colonial legal constructions. A legal anthropological perspective serves to capture the agency of local people, elders and writers, actively transforming and reshaping their own legal orders, irrespective of what foreign writers did, and in response to yet not entirely dependent on state agencies. Law is not only and not primarily to be found in confines of state institutions. Such an approach offers insight into the complex interdependences between different actors engaged in the reproduction and transformation of adat laws in different contexts and at different scale. Van Vollenhoven's insights are still valuable, though he may not have predicted the degree of complexity we are facing in the globalised world of today.

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