Anthropological Approaches to Justice: A Decolonial Introduction to Key Problems, Methods and Perspectives

3 Feb 2025 to 14 Feb 2025

Course in the Module "Anthropology of Law" (3 ECTS)

Main Teacher:           Prof. Dr Martin Ramstedt (Extraordinary Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg / research partner of the ‘Law and Anthropology’ Department of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle)

Guest teacher:           Prof. Dr Itziar Alkorta Idiakez (Associate Professor of Civil Law at the Faculty of Law, Member of the European Law Institute, Member of the IISL Governing Board, Member of the Governing Board of Iura Vasconiae/The Foundation for Basque Law)


This course is designed as a decolonial introduction to anthropological approaches to justice. In methodological terms, decoloniality consists in a structural attention to the constellations of power, i.e. to the respective socio-political and institutional contexts in which the key legal anthropological problems, methods and perspectives under discussion have emerged, and under what premises and for what purposes. Decolonial studies of non-Western normativities are furthermore characterised by a willingness to engage with them on their own terms to allow for a truly “pluriversal” (vs. a universal) understanding of ‘justice.’ In the first week, our focus will be on salient theoretical debates and related conceptual frameworks, with examples from Southeast Asia, the Basque Country, Central Africa, and First Nations in different classical settler countries. The debates concern the distinction between normative and legal pluralism; the alleged “invention” of customary/traditional/indigenous law; the criminalisation of informal cross-border trade in colonial and postcolonial societies; conflicts between human rights and indigenous law; and the emancipation of indigenous jurisprudence. The second week we will foreground specific methods that have been developed within anthropology of law and are (still) highly relevant to contemporary research: traveling law as cultural translation; relational approaches; the extended-case method and situational analysis; and situational analytics in the context of indicator culture and algorithmic discrimination. These methods or modes of inquiry will again be presented in a range of different geographical settings.