This panel will bring an anthropological perspective to bear on the many debates, old and new, on the relationship between law and public morality.
Beyond legal pluralism itself, anthropologists have long paid attention to the normative orders that lie beyond law and sometimes sit in tension with it. Legal systems vary across the world and the borders between legal systems are often blurred and sometimes contentious but so are the borders between law and the enforcing of moral norms. This panel will bring an anthropological perspective to bear on the many debates, old and new, on the relationship between law and public morality. Is it always possible to identify a sphere of public morality? What if anything allows us to distinguish public morality from law? Do the subjectivities of claimants and adjudicators differ across public morality and law? How is authority configured differently? Is public morality always less institutionalised than law? Is the public of law itself different from the public of morality? Does public morality itself get defined by law? Does law have its own morality, or is it just influenced by the morality of broader society? Finally, is it possible to distinguish between ethics and public morality, and if so, how does ethics relate to law? All such questions will be addressed both theoretically and in the light of ethnographic data from across the world, past and present.