Accepted Paper:

Vis maior: rethinking the anthropocene through the anthropology of law  


Tomas Ledvinka (Charles University, Prague)

Paper short abstract:

The relation between law and anthropocene is reconsidered in terms of comparison between social control of vis maior through the mystical agents and legal agents of the modern nad non-modern legalities, and other concepts relating to the vis maior realities, discussed within the anthropology of law.

Paper long abstract:

The relation between anthropocene and law is conventionally obvious on the field of the environmental law. Although this branch of law is praiseworthy, it may be considered also as another control technique revealing anxiety, but invalid as a problem-solver designed for the cultural nature of the environmental crisis. This reflection is to broaden the field of inquiry of the anthropocene in relation to the law extensively, by rethinking it through the disciplinary canon of the anthropology of law with the assistance of the legal concept of vis maior. Natural disasters, economic crisis or killing of a man by wild animal, is considered as vis maior within the modern legality. Some comparative overviews of the "tribal" legal systems demonstrated that the tribal legalities do not cope with such events and forces as extra-legal, but rather magical thought still offer responsible mystical agents, not exactly to settle the dispute, but to allay vis maior factors in the situations such as earthquake, technological disaster or quarrel between brothers, which are behind them, or which cause them. One possible way is to rethink those mystical agents as the agents in strict legal sense in order to illuminate how the recognition of legal persons and misrecognition of mystical "persons" modify the small-scale moral order which seems to arise from the complex interdependence between the agents of particular community and those tensions and relations for which they are seemingly responsible. Those agents, whether legal/cultural or natural, are reconsidered as mediators/intermediaries (Latour 2005) in order to clarify the particularity of the non-human within the modern legalities.

Panel P034
Rethinking research topics in the Anthropocene: anthropological collaborations in global environmental change