AN479      Half Unit
Anthropology of Law

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Insa Koch NAB 7.17


This course is available on the MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development Management, MSc in China in Comparative Perspective, MSc in Social Anthropology and MSc in Social Anthropology (Religion in the Contemporary World). This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course will be of particular benefit to anthropology students who are interested in political and legal developments as well as political economy perspectives in anthropology. It will also be interesting to law students with an interest in socio-legal, critical, criminological and anthropological approaches to the study of law. Students from other departments are encouraged to take this course if they wish to learn more about the anthropology of law. The course complements the Anthropology of Politics (which already runs as a stand-alone half term unit) but it stands as an independent half unit.

Course content

The aim of this course is to introduce students to major developments and debates in legal anthropology both across time and space. The course is divided into three parts. The first part introduces students to the origins and early developments of the discipline. Students will learn about legal anthropology’s encounter with colonialism, its post-colonial critics and the legacy these debates have left on the sub-discipline today. The second part moves on to core debates in contemporary legal anthropology, including on human rights, citizenship and violence and law. In the third part of the course, you will learn about the limits of the law and law’s relationship to other social, economic and political domains.Topics will include the policing of the migrant crisis, the criminalisation of poverty and indigenous peoples’ struggles over cultural recognition. 


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT. 1 hour of lectures in the ST.

The course will be taught through a combination of weekly lectures and seminars. During reading week (week 6), students will also be asked to conduct a court visit and to write up a short ethnographic project. This will be discussed in seminar after reading week.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the LT.

Indicative reading

Some useful background/overview readings include: 

Roberts, Simon 2013. Order and Dispute: An Introduction to Legal Anthropology. New York: Penguin

Fuller, Chris 1994. Legal Anthropology, Legal Pluralism and Legal Thought. In Anthropology Today 10(3): 9-12

Just, Peter 1992. History, Power, Ideology and Culture: Current Directions in the Anthropology of Law. In Law and Society Review 26(2): 373-412

Moore, S.F. 2001. Certainties Undone: Fifty Turbulent Years of Legal Anthropology, 1949 – 1999. In Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 7(1): 95 – 116

Snyder, Francise 1993. Law and Anthropology: A Review. Florence: European University Institute. Working Papers in Law 93/4

There are also a number of edited collections that are useful:

Moore, Sally Falk 2005. Law and Anthropology: A reader. Malden: MA Blackwell

Mundy, Martha 2002. Law and Anthropology. Aldershot: UK Ashgate.

Starre, June and June F. Collier 1989. History and Power in the Study of Law: New Directions in Legal Anthropology. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Lazarus-Black, M. and Susan Hirsch, 1994. Contested States: Law, Hegemony and Resistance. After the Law. New York and London: Routledge.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the summer exam period.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2018/19: Unavailable

Average class size 2018/19: Unavailable

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills