P201


Contested justice: Legal and judicial pluralism in urban settings and renegotiations of the law from urban to rural domains 
Convenors:
Naomi Pendle (London School of Economics and Political Science)
Rachel Ibreck (Goldsmiths, University of London)
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Chair:
Jonathan Roberts (Mount Saint Vincent University)
Discussant:
Nicki Kindersley (University of Cambridge)
Format:
Panels
Location:
KH117
Start time:
30 June, 2017 at 16:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:
1

Short Abstract:

Urban residents are often confronted with a plurality of laws and court processes. This panel asks how they encounter and renegotiate law in practice. It also asks how experiences of justice in urban domains impacts imaginaries and processes of law, justice and authority in rural home communities.

Long Abstract

Urban residents in Africa are often confronted with a plurality of legal actors, public authorities and processes concerned with justice, including state judiciaries and , customary, community or people's courts. Urban centres bring a spatial and political proximity to statutory justice. In contexts of urban displacement, international actors may also become involved in the administration of justice. . Urban contexts also give rise to new dilemmas for the law to govern as well as shifting social, moral and legal values, including humanitarian imaginings. In these contexts, laws and configurations of legal authority are being remade. Power is not just projected from the centre, but is also constructed in daily, local struggles. How are legal regimes being (re)made in urban spaces? Do these contests take a distinct form in urban settings? How does this change the provision of justice and security in these urban spaces? How have people reimagined power in urban spaces through the law and justice provision? Plus, are practices of justice in urban spaces affecting relationships with law and public authority back in rural domains? Does this construct or erase a division between the urban and rural? Urban spaces also include encampments of migrants from conflict such as refugee camps. Do these urban / quasi-urban spaces have distinct experiences of contested justice?

Accepted papers:

Author:

Sarah-Jane Cooper-Knock (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the multiple cases of surrounding electricity access that entered the magistrates' court in Ntuzuma, South Africa.

Paper long abstract:

Exploring a Charged Issue: Electricity in the Magistrates' Court

Electricity has long been a site of political contestation in South Africa. Access to electricity was imagined to be part of the 'Better Life for All' promised to South Africans at the transition from apartheid. In practice, many citizens today lack affordable access to this energy supply.

This paper explores the multiple cases of surrounding electricity access that entered the magistrates' court in Ntuzuma, South Africa. It asks what insights they can provide into the way that the law (re)shapes people's relationships with each other and with the state. It also interrogates what the shifting legal framework around electricity access might mean for these relationships and the constellation of public and private actors tasked with making state ordering a reality.

Authors:

Rachel Ibreck (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Naomi Pendle (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Paper short abstract:

Despite conflict, political turbulence and economic crisis, the conduct of young people in urban South Sudan is subject to the resilient public authority of customary and statutory courts. This paper explores the predicament of youth through their encounters with the courts.

Paper long abstract:

Despite conflict, political turbulence and economic crisis, the conduct of young people in urban South Sudan is subject to the resilient public authority of customary and statutory courts. This paper explores the predicament of youth through their encounters with the courts, drawing on observations of court cases in different urban localities, including sites of displacement. It considers the role of urban courts in governing urban youth, and constructing differences and inequalities among them. It identifies the ways in which courts tie young men and women into power relations that dominate in the rural sphere, cementing their dependency on family and kinship relations. It also reflects on the voluntary compliance of young people and the extent to which courts offer them continuity and a connection to the moral landscape of 'home' that contrasts with the uncertainties of the towns. It suggests that courts can become forums in which relationships between younger and older generations, and between 'urban' and 'rural' moralities are negotiated. Chiefs and judges engage in constructing power and authority through defining cultural and moral boundaries, yet as young people wrestle to (re)claim agency over their own sexuality, the courts might either restrain them or provide a platform for them to change the perimeters of permissible debate. By examining both progressive and 'traditional' settlements of cases involving violence, bride wealth, and sexual relationships, we assess the implications of the public authority of courts for South Sudan's urban youth.

Author:

Helene Maria Kyed (Danish Institute for International Studies)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores legal plurality in the informal resolution of crimes and disputes by civilian and state policing actors in Maputo. It argues that informality is informed by citizens’ demands for immediate justice, and that legal pluralism is conditioned by contestations over sovereign power.

Paper long abstract:

Legal pluralism has commonly been associated with rural African contexts, and much less with urban centres where citizens' are geographically close to the official police and courts. A closer examination of everyday justice provision and policing in urban neighbourhoods, however, reveals a plurality of actors, practices and norm, sometimes complementary and sometimes conflicting, for making order in the urban spaces. This paper explores the everyday practices of dealing with criminals and resolving disputes by state police officers and civilian community policing actors in Maputo. Based on long-term ethnographic research in a neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city, the paper shows that the vast majority of crimes and civil disputes are resolved in informal ways, drawing on common sense, customary practices and popular notions of justice. This is also the case for the state police. The official law is present as a resource when enforcing decisions, but seldom determines the outcomes. Informality is driven by popular demands for immediate justice in an urban context where crime is rife and there is little trust in official procedures. The flipside is the prevalence of violence in order-making practices. At a deeper level of analysis, the use of violence reveals how legal pluralism is conditioned by contestations over sovereign power between state and civilian policing actors. This takes the form of competition over the capacity to punish criminals and decide the order of the neighbourhoods.

Author:

Christian Laheij (MPI for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the impact of judicial decentralisation on the resolution of civil disputes in peri-urban northern Mozambique. It focuses on the construction and negotiation of legitimacy in settings of pluralism, and argues for an epistemological perspective on the provision of justice.

Paper long abstract:

Mozambique has over the past decades adopted a series of legal reforms aimed at decentralisation of the administration of justice in the civil domain. This has resulted in pluralisation of the legal landscape, with state courts, police, neighbourhood administrators, community courts, community police, customary authorities, religious leaders and NGOs now vying for clients, recognition and power. This paper explores the impact of these reforms in a peri-urban context where spatial proximity means that competition between legal actors is especially intense. Specifically, the paper asks how legal actors involved in the resolution of civil disputes construct and negotiate legitimacy. In analysing two case studies, it is shown that struggles over legitimacy are structured to an important degree by changing truth preferences, the dynamics of which are beyond the control of individual actors. This finding has implications for research on legal pluralism and justice sector reforms. Whereas existing studies tend to analyse questions of authority and legitimacy in pluralist settings in terms of their associations with power, procedures and norms, this paper argues for an epistemological perspective on the provision of justice.

Paper short abstract:

This paper assesses the extent to which the state implemented a landmark constitutional court ruling that sought to address housing provision for residents of an informal settlement in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Paper long abstract:

The progressive realisation of socio-economic rights as enshrined in South Africa's Constitution still remains a pipe dream for many poor and vulnerable people, 21 years after the collapse of apartheid. In the case of Nokotyana and Others v Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality and Others the Constitutional Court (CC) had to decide on the interpretation of the rights of access to basic services such as sanitation and high mast lighting. In this case, community members from Harry Gwala informal settlement near Johannesburg sought to compel the state through courts of law to upgrade the settlement and to provide basic services. Although the CC did not engage with the content of the socio-economic rights being claimed by the community, it did eventually order the state to upgrade the settlement within fourteen months of the judgment. This article discusses the extent to which the state has complied with the judgement and what kinds of challenges were experienced in implementing the court order. Empirical data was collected through interviews with different actors who were involved in the case either directly or indirectly. The findings point out the complexities surrounding implementation of the court judgement, which require innovative solutions.