Accepted paper:

Law and Public Morality: Views from Anthropology and from West Mexico


Trevor Stack (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

In the paper I compare my Mexican informants' understandings of citizenship with those of anthropologists.

Paper long abstract:

The paper focuses on a series of interviews and case studies carried out in west Mexico, 2007-10. When asked what it meant to be a citizen, interviewees included rights-bearing in their answers but insisted that citizenship was ultimately about living in society, as the holistic ground of public life. Their use of the term reminds us that many different things have been called "citizenship" over the centuries, including aspects of public morality, and that some things now called "citizenship", such as claiming rights on states, have not always been referred to as such. The article paper, though, on the concepts that informants sometimes labeled "citizenship" rather than on their choice of the word itself. Informants sounded like anthropologists in insisting that the subjectivity of the human person could not be reducible to institutional definitions. The difference was that my informants placed still more emphasis on society and had a strongly normative understanding of what living in society involves, which I term civil sociality. In other words, they juxtaposed law and public morality in the form of civil sociality. The article explores the broad notion of "citizenship" articulated by the Mexican informants, or more precisely their juxtaposition of law and public morality, drawing out the methodological, ethnographic, historical, theoretical and normative implications, including for the anthropology of citizenship.

panel G40
Law and public morality: pluralism beyond law (IUAES Commission on Legal Pluralism)